Mumbai: Being out of the national team for a long time is a difficult thing to do, especially if you have donned the national colours at a very young age. Life after being dropped becomes a never-ending grind; performing in front of empty stands in domestic cricket becomes mandatory. The motivation level often falls if there is no feedback from the selectors.
Dinesh Karthik has been a victim of this cycle quite a few times in his career. But a small tweak in his attitude before making his latest comeback has benefited him a lot.
"In this sport, I keep saying, for me on a personal note, motivation is a question that a lot of people have asked, but I keep telling them that it is not a question for me. One of the things that I try to do well in life is play the sport. It is something that I always enjoy doing, be it domestic cricket or even club cricket," Karthik said ahead of the 'Horn Not Ok Please T20 Cup' charity match.
"A lot of time it has worn me down as well. It is hard, constantly trying to play for country. Sometimes my performances are not that good because constantly I am trying to constantly focus on the future, and that’s the mistake that I have made before. In the last couple of years or two-and-a-half years, I haven’t thought so much about playing for India; I kind of changed my mindset and it helped me.”
This timely advice was given to Karthik by VVS Laxman after the last Indian Premier League (IPL). Karthik has always scored heavily in domestic cricket. He amassed 704 runs at a healthy average of 54.15 in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy season which was followed by more success. He was the highest run-scorer in the subsequent Vijay Hazare Trophy season, which was coincidentally clinched by Tamil Nadu. But despite all the runs, Laxman advised Karthik to focus on something else.
"One of the conversations with VVS after the last IPL actually opened me up as a cricketer. He said that at this stage of my career, the most important thing is not those good looking 30s, 40s and brilliant 100s you score. The most important thing is to be able to win matches that you play for any team, that kind of stuck to me. He learnt it from experience and followed it," he said.
Karthik has been in the news after his last-ball six during the sensational 8-ball 29-run knock took India past the finish line in the Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh. In the pre-final conference, he had talked about being on the toes as 'one bad tour' would have led to his exit. But this innings has changed the perception of Tamil Nadu batsman.
Karthik has made quite a few comebacks to the Indian team. But this time around, his confidence and the form he is are very superior. What works more in his favour is that India are still looking to fill the No 4 position in ODIs. And while the knock in Colombo might have given him a longer rope, he doesn't want it to be the only knock he is known for.
"It’s been a good few days, a lot of people have been sending me congratulatory messages, etc. It’s been really nice. Though at the back of my mind, I do feel strongly that this should be a start of something nice and a good sort of (beginning) from here, that’s how I am looking at it. It’s not like wow, I have done something. For me it’s not just those eight balls, more than that it’s been whatever things I have done in the last 14 years, looking to play international cricket or last 20-22 years that I am playing the sport, all those things culminated, helped me get those runs. It’s just not about that one day, there has been a lot of things that have gone on before that and all those things helped me get to the place where I could play that knock," he remarked.
While, Karthik has done all the things he could in the short while in the Indian colours since his comeback, his attention will now shift to his next challenge: captaining Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the upcoming IPL.
"Leading a team like KKR will give me lot of confidence on a personal level. It has only had two (three) captains till now, Sourav Ganguly and Gautam Gambhir (Brendon McCullum led the side in the second IPL). They have given me a lot of responsibility. There is a lot of pressure in trying to be the best team that we can be but I am looking forward to it," said Karthik, who was picked up by KKR in the mega auction for Rs 7.4 crore.
Whether a little tweak in attitude will help Karthik prolong his career for another two-three years is something which we may not find out as of yet, but one thing is assured: Karthik is on the right track and should continue to focus more on 'winning games' for his side.