In India's first-ever T20I match against South Africa at Johannesburg in December 2006, Dinesh Karthik too made his T20I debut. In that match, Karthik had made an unbeaten 31 and bagged the Player of the Match award.
Now, 16 years later, in Rajkot, Karthik notched up his first half-century in the format, blistering 27-ball 55, hitting nine fours and two sixes at a strike rate of 203.7. He was also involved in a crucial 65-run stand-off with 33 balls with Hardik Pandya to set up India's 82-run thrashing of South Africa and take the series to a cracking finale on Sunday.
"Just feels good. I am feeling very secure in this setup. In the last game, things didn't go according to plan, but I went and expressed myself today. I think (veteran) DK is thinking a little better. He is able to assess situations better and that comes with practice, planning and experience," said Karthik after he was adjudged 'Player of the Match'.
When Karthik and Pandya joined forces, India were 81/4 in 12.5 overs. The pitch was everything that one wouldn't have expected for the Rajkot pitch to be apart from a hint of turn for spinners some movement for seamers and variable bounce looming around.
But Karthik, along with Pandya, changed the situation in India's favour with a dazzling batting display that fetched them 73 runs in the last five overs."They bowled brilliantly upfront and made it tough for us. It was a tough pitch to bat on.
It was hard to hit boundaries. Our openers have usually been kind enough to get us off to good starts. When I went in Hardik told me to take my time. It was important that players who have been around for a long need to stand up on such pitches," revealed Karthik on the batting approach at the back end of the innings.
The wicketkeeper-batter credited head coach Rahul Dravid for creating a calm and clear environment in the Indian team, which is helping him."Credit to Rahul Dravid; there is a certain sense of calmness. The dressing room is a calm place right now.
It is important to learn to embrace the pressure. It feels secure and fuzzy. That clarity and the environment helped."Karthik paved his way back into the India set-up after producing scintillating finishes as a specialist finisher for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2022.
No doubt Karthik is excited for the series finale at his new 'home ground'."Bangalore is a home ground for me. I haven't played with RCB, but have played a lot over there. It is good to see a bilateral series going down to the final match. To see the pressure being absorbed in the third and fourth games was something we would relish."