The SCA stadium, Rajkot was chanting ‘DK…DK’ as a 37-year-old cricketer smashed his maiden T20I half-century on Friday. Dinesh Karthik was named the player of the match for guiding India to an 82-run win over South Africa. The triumph kept the five-match series, which is currently tied at 2-2, alive. 

Karthik made his T20I debut along with India in 2006. He was named the player of the match for making an unbeaten 28-ball 31 with the help of three boundaries and one maximum. The men in blue won by six wickets. 

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His form and consistency earned Dinesh Karthik a place in the inaugural T20I World Cup in 2007. However, he was replaced by Rohit Sharma in the semi-finals. The Tamil Nadu-based batter has since been in and out of the Indian set-up. He played and delivered a different positions but failed to cement a regular spot in the playing 11. 

Cut to 2018 Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh. The Indian side was being led by Rohit Sharma in the absence of Virat Kohli and some other senior players. Chasing 167 runs, the men in blue were 98/4 in the 14th over. Vijay Shankar and Manish Pandey showed some resistance but the equation eventually boiled to five runs needed on the last ball, with DK on strike. 

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Soumya Sarkar delivered an overpitched delivery, which was smashed by Karthik for a flat six. He had won India the Nidhas Trophy and the finish was compared to MS Dhoni’s in the 2011 World Cup. 

Karthik was named the player of the match for his 29 off eight balls. “I have been saying this over and over again; the Indian team right now is a tough place to get an opportunity but once you get it – you got to make best use of the opportunity. Credit to the backroom staff – they have always given me the confidence and I’m happy where I’m,” he said after the game. 

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Four years later, a brilliant IPL season – 330 runs in 16 innings at a strike rate of 183.33 – earned him a spot in India’s T20I squad vs South Africa. After not getting much of a chance in the first game, he made an unbeaten 21-ball 30 in the second. The 37-year-old’s 55 off 27 balls in the fourth match of the series has put India in the driver’s seat for the final game.

Dinesh Karthik’s best performances have come across three decades – 2006, 2018 and 2022. 

Rishabh Pant and co have the momentum and Karthik, who played for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, is expected to receive a lot of support in the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.