Dinesh Karthik he is currently playing the hard courts in Mumbai under the guidance of his friend and mentor Abhishek Nayar, focused on improving his final skills in the T20 format.
Not because IPL auctions are just around the corner. His plan is simple.
The 36-year-old, who last played for India in the 2019 ODI World Cup semi-final, is committed to playing the game for “another 3-4 years” and is determined to return domestically in the shorter format. .
The motivation to play for India remains as strong as ever, says Karthik, who would also like his six-month-old twins to see him play at the highest level in a couple of years.
“T20s will be the starting point for me. Obviously, with a tournament like the IPL, you play against the best in the world and you get a chance to show off your skills. As a mid-level hitter, I can try to make an impact,” Karthik told PTI.
Before being dropped from the shorter formats in the wake of an unlucky World Cup campaign, Karthik had done reasonably well as a finisher in T20, with the highlight being his last heroic over in the 2018 Nidahas Trophy final.
With India continuing to test players for the middle order in limited overs cricket, Karthik senses an opportunity.
Citing the examples of Shikhar Dhawanwho is 36, and Pakistan’s Shoaib Malik and recently retired Mohammad Hafeez, who are both in their 40s, Karthik said age is no longer a selection criteria.
It’s about form, fitness and experience.
“Age is definitely not what a lot of normal people look at (for returning to India). Shikhar Dhawan was the best run accumulator (in ODIs in South Africa) and we are the same age.”
He also believes that in the shorter format one tends to get better with age.
“People tend to find out, understand their body, how much cricket they can play and all those reasons, as a great example was how you know Shoaib Malik and Hafeez were able to contribute to Pakistan in the T20 World Cup.
“Experience is a very important factor in multinational tournaments. That could be seen very clearly in the last tournaments that have been held”.
Speaking about his specific T20 training with Abhishek, Karthik said that he is working on skills that make him better early innings.
“After each tournament, we sit down and reassess. After the Vijay Hazare (one day national event), we sat down and discovered a couple of areas that we need to improve in terms of shooting.
“As soon as I get inside the first five balls, what are the kind of scoring opportunities that I can create for myself? When a fast bowler obviously comes and tries to bowl you, what are the opportunities in terms of shots that you should pick?
“Another area is if a spinner is throwing hard and trying to take the ball from you, what are the opportunities you can give yourself to score?
“So I’ve taken a microscopic view to work on those areas,” said Karthik, who also regularly plays domestic cricket and did well in one-day matches for Tamil Nadu.
Indian batsman-goalkeepers have generally been in demand at the IPL auction and Karthik, who is back at the auction after a long association with Kolkata Knight Riders, may once again land a lucrative deal.
He has played for six IPL franchises, but not for his hometown team: Chennai Super Kings.
What team would you like to play for in 2022?
“It is very difficult for me to answer this question because it will be a very cliché answer. I will try to do everything I can, not only to do well for the franchisee I play for, but also for myself.”
On the possible ‘homecoming’ with CSK, Karthik added: “Look, it’s great if I can play for CSK. I am from Chennai.
“But at the end of the day, what is important to me is whatever team I play for, it will be an absolute honor because, as I said, all this practice that I have been doing these days is to try to do well in a tournament like the IPL”.
Full-time comments can wait.
Karthik the commentator became an instant hit with his UK debut during the India tour of England and the final of the World Test Championship.
While he still does a bit of media work in his spare time, Karthik insists his commentary stint in the UK was a one-off and his whole focus is on a return to India.
“I have made comments only once and that was after the IPL when I had a two-month break. I have realized that I enjoy it. But it’s not something that I’m pursuing in any way for the next three years in a serious way.
“For me, playing this sport is the most important thing and I have set myself the goal of playing for at least the next three or four years.
“The most important thing for me would be to play the sport and do it to the best of my ability because I can always be a commentator once I hang up my boots, but I can’t keep playing for long,” added Karthik.