The personal stories of Team India members bound for ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Dinesh Karthik — always a step ahead

Dinesh Karthik

Dinesh Karthik   | Photo Credit: AP

Hurdles and disappointments have made him a tough cookie

Competition made him mentally tough. The constant need to stay ahead made him tougher. Overcoming odds and disappointments made him the toughest. In all, cricket turned Dinesh Karthik into a “complete man”.

Coming from a family of sports lovers — mainly cricket — it was natural for the young Karthik to take to the sport like fish to water.

Parental support

“He loved the game and I let him pursue it,” says Krishna Kumar, Karthik’s father. Kumar played professional cricket — three decades of club cricket in all. He took Karthik along and taught him the nuances of the game. Karthik’s exposure to competitive cricket started when he was eight years old — playing for Chettinad Vidyashram in an under-10 tournament. Karthik was named ‘most promising player’.

A natural athlete, Karthik used to bowl leg-spin, but soon found his calling in wicketkeeping, and there was no looking back.

The search for greener pastures took Kumar to Kuwait, and Karthik spent four years in the Gulf country.

“In Kuwait, there are three groups — followers of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. When he was 10, Karthik played u-19 and u-16 cricket.”

It was now clear that Karthik had a future in the game. “When he was about 12, I decided moving back to India, Madras in particular,” Kumar says. A net session at the YMCA ground changed Karthik’s fortunes. “During practice, he caught veteran Tamil Nadu player C.S. Kumar’s eye. He suggested that we enrol him in Don Bosco School,” reveals Kumar.

Along with classmate S. Vasudeva Das, Karthik forged an excellent left-right combination. Karthik soon joined a fifth division team in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) league and gradually climbed the ladder.

While Karthik was playing second division, he met the late N. Gautam, who suggested that he attend the MRF Pace Foundation, and train under Dennis Lillee and T.A. Sekar.

With then-India players like T. Kumaran, S. Sriram, Ashish Kapoor, Mohd. Kaif and Zaheer Khan training regularly, Karthik used to confine himself to the nets adjacent to the main practice wickets. The turning point wasn’t far away. As Karthik was thinking of signing for first division side Mambalam Mosquitos, an opening came in the form of an accident when the MRF wicketkeeper had to withdraw from the league. “That was the opening we were waiting for. That was also the first time the pace foundation coaches spoke to me. I would say, it was the turning point in Karthik’s career,” Kumar says.

After his parents, the two people who have contributed the most to his progress have been his wife, champion squash player Dipika Pallikal, and Mumbai cricketer Abhishek Nayar.

Ideal partner: Wife Dipika Pallikal has been a source of strength for Dinesh Karthik.

Ideal partner: Wife Dipika Pallikal has been a source of strength for Dinesh Karthik.   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

When Karthik found the going tough, he found solace in Nayar’s training. Meditation and visualisation techniques became regular apart from two practice sessions and all of them helped Karthik gain confidence immensely.

Dipika says it was his character — patient and good — that drew her close to Karthik. At home, the husband and wife hardly discuss sports. “If there’s something that’s really bothering him then he talks about it otherwise, that’s it!” she says.

Work-life balance

Dipika lauds Karthik for trying to strike a work-life balance. “As I’m an athlete too, we hardly get time with each other. But we both know that sacrifices are important to achieve what we both want and that keeps us going,” she adds.

Kumar and Dipika say Karthik loves the simple pleasures of life. “On a day off, shopping or a movie or a simple meal with family is what he craves for,” Kumar says.

Just like other families, Karthik’s folks, too, have superstitions. “Any parent would be lying if they had said they don’t have superstitions. We have our sentiments — like always sitting on the same chair when he is playing or chanting a certain prayer,” Kumar says.

Click here to read the full story in The Sportstar.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 3:51:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/dinesh-karthik-always-a-step-ahead/article27240935.ece

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