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Will Dinesh Karthick’s RCB showing revive his India T20 World Cup dreams?

Dinesh Karthik’s role as a finisher for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) could pitchfork the 36-year-old wicketkeeper-batter into India reckoning as the team under Rohit Sharma looks to rebuild for the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.

Former England captain Nick Knight said as much when he commented that he sees in Karthik a cricketer who can perform the job of a finisher in this year’s T20 World Cup if he continues to finish matches for his Bengaluru franchise in IPL 2022.

In IPL 2022, Karthik has been a critical finisher for RCB, making 131 runs and averaging the same number with a strike-rate of 218.33, especially in matches against Punjab Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals.

Though Bangalore fell short of the chase by 23 runs against Chennai Super Kings at the DY Patil Stadium on Tuesday, they were still in reckoning to hunt down 217 despite losing eight wickets, thanks to Dinesh Karthik’s quick-fire 34 off 14 balls, laced with two fours and three sixes at a strike-rate of 242.86.

But his dismissal in the 18th over off Dwayne Bravo effectively sealed the fate of the match for Chennai. Karthik, who has made many comebacks to the Indian side since his debut in 2004, last played international cricket during the 2019 Men’s Cricket World Cup and has been out of the set-up post India’s exit from the semifinals of the mega event.

“DK is a fantastic fella. He did work with us during the English summer (India’s Tour of England in 2021). As someone who knows him, I’m really feasting and enjoying on what he is doing. The one thing we came across when he met him was how much he loves the game. I think he is 36 and he’s not thinking about retirement. He is absolutely loving every minute. If he can keep finishing games like this, there might be a role for him at the World T20,”

Knight feels if CSK had got a low score, many wouldn’t have talked about the bowling performance of Sri Lanka off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana. Picked by Rs 70 lakh in the IPL Mega Auction in February this year, Theekshana finally got his moment to shine in IPL 2022 by picking 4/33 in his four overs.

Theekshana proved to be a vital factor in derailing Bangalore’s chase of 217 by taking out openers Faf du Plessis and Anuj Rawat in power-play. He then came back in the later stages to dismiss Shahbaz Ahmed and Suyash Prabhudessai to keep Chennai on course for a 23-run win.

“It was a fantastic night for him. If CSK were blown away for 130, 140 or may be 150, we won’t be talking about Theekshana. Nothing to take away from the spinners, but the dismissals mystery spinners get is when the batsmen are coming at you, under pressure.”

“Last game he bowled four overs with no wickets and he didn’t bowl any good or any worse today. When you don’t have runs on the board, it’s not so straight forward for these guys. It’s the same with Jadeja. It’s the game situation that brings spinners in a bit more,” observed Knight, a former left-handed batter.

Theekshana’s early strikes along with left-arm pacer Mukesh Choudhary and captain Ravindra Jadeja taking out Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell respectively meant Bangalore never had the strong foundation to chase 217 successfully, something which Knight firmly believed in.

“On a surface like today (Tuesday), I thought the conditions were even. The powerplay was crucial and one of your top four has to set that up (chasing 200 plus) and guys in the middle can pick that up. That was the problem for RCB.”