Dinesh Karthik and Liam Livingstone have been top performers for their respective franchises.

A few years back, leg-spinner Pravin Tambe proved that age is just a number, when, out of obscurity, he made his IPL debut for the Rajasthan Royals (RR) during the 2013 edition at the age of 41. At 36, Dinesh Karthik is proving the same for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). The last few years have not been fruitful for Karthik in the T20 league. He lost his captaincy for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to Eoin Morgan. While he was retained by the franchise and remained agile behind the wickets, his performances with the willow dipped. In IPL 2020, he managed only 169 runs in 14 matches. Last season, he scored 223 runs in 17 matches at an average of under 24.

There were some reservations when RCB paid Rs 5.5 crore to purchase the keeper-batter at the IPL mega auction. The theory floating around what that Karthik was past his prime. However, three matches into the tournament and the veteran keeper-batter has thrown all the theories out of the window. He is yet to be dismissed in IPL 2022 and has registered scores of 32 not out in 14, 14 not out off 7, and 44 not out off 23. What has stood out about Karthik in this year’s edition so far is his confidence in his own ability and his street-smartness, which is very much intact.

The answer to India’s T20 World Cup finisher?

Karthik has not played for India since the 2019 World Cup semi-final, an event in which he struggled for fluency. To be fair, the keeper-batter’s days as an ODI player for India are well and truly over. However, in the wake of his fantastic cameos for RCB, the same cannot be said about his T20I career. Remember India have been struggling in the finishing department in T20Is ever since MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, and Suresh Raina left the international scene. Hardik Pandya’s fitness has been a constant question mark while Rishabh Pant is being groomed for the number four role. There is definitely an opening in the finishing department.

Karthik may be 36, but age really doesn’t matter that much when it comes to the T20 format. The keeper-batter has displayed the agility needed for the version in the games that he has played for the Bangalore franchise season. Significantly, Karthik is not new to the role as he has experience of finishing matches for India. His stunning cameo in the 2018 Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh is a golden moment in Indian cricket.

The fire is still burning bright 

If one has to sum up Karthik’s international career in one word, “unfulfilled” would perhaps be an apt term. He has always been considered as someone with exceptional talent. Karthik entered the international scene way back in 2004, the same year in which MS Dhoni burst on to the scene. While some may consider Karthik unlucky since he was competing with the great man for the keeper’s spot in the team, it is equally true that the Tamil Nadu cricketer himself did not grab the opportunities that came his way.

In we look at his international career so far, he has played 26 Tests, 94 ODIs and 32 T20Is, which is a significant number of matches. However, he has an average of 25 in Tests and 30.20 in one-dayers, which is a clear indication of the fact that he has not performed to potential. To be fair to him, it must not have been easy for Karthik, knowing that Dhoni was always going to be the first choice.

It’s not all over for Karthik yet, though. He has a reasonable T20I record, and there is no reason why he should not find a place in the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year. The veteran cricketer recently proclaimed that he is “not done yet”, clearly hinting at a swansong at the T20 World Cup. The fire is burning bright inside Karthik to end his unfulfilled international career on a high. Will the selectors give him the deserved final chance?

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