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Calmness and Confidence Fuel Second Wind of Karthik's Career

Calmness and Confidence Fuel Second Wind of Karthik's Career

R Ashwin's tweet earlier this year sums up everything about his state-mate Dinesh Karthik's transformation into many things he wasn't known for in the past. The Karthik of the past was known to be as talented as any other batsman in the circuit, but was also considered fidgety and restless. It led to inconsistency - in the chances he got, and his own performances.

Whether the two were related or not was up for debate, but as the years flew by, there was a danger of Karthik's talent being wasted.

That has changed a little over the last couple of years. A stellar domestic season in 2016-17 got him back in the national set-up mid-2017. Since then, he has played 20 ODIs and 21 T20Is apart from making a brief comeback to the Test side after more than eight years. The consistent string of matches resulted in something he wasn't exactly known for - consistent results.

Since his return, Karthik averages 47.22 from 17 ODI innings, having scored 425 runs with two half-centuries. The T20I record is even better - an average close to 70, a strike-rate above 150, and eight not outs from 11 innings. This, at a time when the competition for spots in the Indian batting line up is huge.

Is Ashwin's assessment right?

"Yeah definitely. I'm trying to achieve that, let's put it that way," Karthik tells Cricketnext. "Everything's changed (in the last couple of years). The technique, the mental preparation, the way you prepare in practice. All that helps you in reaching that goal."

One of the notable aspects of Karthik's batting these days is the calmness he brings to proceedings, even in mad T20 finishes. It's an adjective that was hardly used with Karthik of the past, but it hasn't come at the cost of his 'restlessness', according to him.

"When you're in the middle playing a pressure situation, it's important to at times stay as calm as you can," he says. "Still off the field, a lot of people still call me restless and all that, so I've not changed much as a person. But when I bat in the middle, I do give a sense, at least it looks from the outside that I'm a lot more calmer."

It's in line with what Karthik told this writer after the bumper 2016-17 season when he scored 854 runs from 12 List A innings. Karthik still has all the fidgety features and superstitions about his batting - he backs away and squats with eyes closed before facing his first ball, he taps the side of the pitch after every over.

“Being restless is something that’s very me,” he had said. “I have all my set of restless rituals before the bowler starts his run-up but once he does, I think I’m in decent space. All those nervy things that look very restless from outside is very Dinesh Karthik. I don’t think I can change it, and I don’t want to change it as well.”

The dual feature of newfound calmness while balancing his innate qualities is reflected in his batting in the two limited-overs formats. In T20Is, Karthik blazes from the word go, smashing at a strike-rate above 150. It all started with the Nidahas Trophy final last year, and extended into similar knocks in Australia and New Zealand this year as well.

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