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The Rediff Special/Harish Kotian in Dhaka
Dhoni, Karthik 'keep' the runs coming
May 10, 2007
There was a time, not long ago when India was struggling to find good wicketkeepers. And by the term 'good wicketkeepers' we mean safe with the gloves as well as being capable batsmen.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a blessing in disguise. He's been a revelation ever since making his debut in 2004. While India celebrated his rapid rise in international cricket, as quickly, behind the scenes, emerged another contender in Dinesh Karthik.
Karthik also came into the team in 2004, but somehow has failed to find a permanent slot in it. However, in the last season or so, he has transformed himself so much that he has now forced his way in purely as a batsman.
The general feeling is that with two 'keepers, it could block the way for a specialist bowler or a batsman. But captain Rahul Dravid believes both are specialists and must be counted as pure batsmen if not as keepers.
"Karthik, yes, part of his other role is to be a wicketkeeper, but he has been taken in this team as a batsman. He has shown enough ability and promise with the bat to be considered as a batsman," Dravid had said on Monday.
When the two youngsters set about their tasks in the first one-dayer on Thursday, the match seemed evenly poised. Infact, one could say it was more in Bangladesh's favour than India. But some mature batting from both batsmen slowly took India to victory, which, in the end, was easy to a large extent.
Dhoni finished unbeaten on 91 (106 balls, seven boundaries), while Karthik was not out on 58 (60 balls, four boundaries), as the duo were involved in an unbroken stand of 107 runs.
Even opposing captain Habibul Bashar acknowledged their contribution in India's successful chase.
"We were waiting for one wicket when Dhoni and Karthik were batting and we felt that we had a chance right till the end if we got that wicket. 250 was a good total on this wicket, but Dhoni made all the difference, and Karthik supported him really well," Bashar said.
For Dhoni, it was a chance to redeem himself after a disastrous time at the World Cup, where India were eliminated in the preliminary round. He has always done well at that position, having scored 543 runs in 9 matches at an average of 64.25 before this match.
Once again Dravid gave the Jharkhand batsman another go at the crucial number three position in this vital match.
"We knew that the ball comes on to the bat early when it is new. Dhoni is someone; if he gets set, he has shown in his short international career that he has got the ability to think, and he does not play in just one fashion.
"He has got the ability to change gears -- to change the tempo of the game; play according to the situation, and that's a fantastic gift to have at such a young age," Dravid said, heaping rich tributes on the wicketkeeper.
Even though they are battling for the keeper's slot, Dhoni does not feel the heat from his younger rival, Karthik.
"It's a healthy competition [between me and Karthik]. It's a worrying sign for batsmen in India as we are doing well," Dhoni said with a smile.
The best part about their partnership today was the poise they maintained in the face of severe pressure from the opposition. Between the 30th and the 40th over the two batsmen kept up the scoring rate with some quick running even though Dhoni used a runner because of cramps.
They put on 61 runs in that 10-over slot, inspite of hitting just a boundary each, and executed their plans quite well against the left-arm spinners.
Team India Cricket Manager Ravi Shastri, in his first assignment, also acknowledged the duo's contribution in the fine victory.
"They are young players, and to show that kind of maturity it augurs well. The way they played you got to give them credit. I thought they were outstanding in trying circumstances because he had kept [wickets] for 47 overs and then had to come out and bat and had cramps. But the good thing was he didn't give it away," Shastri said.
Asked if they would look at swapping roles between the two wicketkeepers in future matches, Shastri replied: "We have not thought about it, but if the conditions are like that and if he [Dhoni] is feeling the heat then it's a great bonus to have two wicketkeepers. One can keep for 40 overs and the other for the next overs or someone for 30 overs. It is allowed."
Meanwhile, Dhoni, who looked in some pain throughout, said never during the innings did the thought of retiring come to his mind.
"I only had the option to play. I am a fighter and I believe in fighting hard. The pain was not really too much, but I was getting the cramps; it was not the pain that was bothering me," he added.
Fighting till the end is what all fans are also hoping to see, as the Indian team aims to get back to winning ways. The World Cup debacle was a lesson and, hopefully, the team will only get better from this point.
While we may go ga-ga over this victory, it is important to remember that the top order still looks brittle and someone needs to take initiative there and bat responsibly.
After all, Dhoni and Karthik cannot dish out such performances every time.
Complete Coverage - India's tour of Bangladesh 2007