Though Karthik’s career promised so much in 2007, that joy was only short lived as he was consigned into fringes the international cricket following a string of poor performances.
With an extensive tour of England coming up shortly for the Indians, the Afghanistan Test is a great chance for Karthik to work himself back into the reckoning in the five-day format.
Though Saha remains the No1 choice for England for now, we take a look at a few reasons why Karthik could still play a big part on the tour.
The loss in form post 2007 saw the Tamil Nadu-born man be reduced to fleeting appearances for India and it took a sensational last-ball rescue act in the Nidahas T20 tri-series final earlier this year to catapult Karthik back into the team’s limited-overs setup.
After consistent performances in the domestic circuit, Karthik was elevated to the captain’s seat at Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL this year where he led the side to a respectable third-place finish while chipping in with valuable contributions with the bat.
Only few months ago, Parthiv Patel was ahead in the pecking order when it came to India’s Test reserve wicket-keepers but Karthik’s comeback has seen him leapfrog the fellow 33-year-old. Karthik is now a shoe-in for the reserve wicketkeeper’s role for the tour of England.
TOP-SCORER IN INDIA’S LAST SERIES WIN ON ENGLISH SOIL
The three-match series in 2007 was India’s last Test series win on English soil. In that series, Karthik started off with five on his debut at Lord’s but followed it up with a match-saving 60 in the second innings.
His 77-run first-innings knock in the second Test laid the foundation for India’s famous seven-wicket win. In the third Test at The Oval, Karthik was impressive once again as he racked up another 91 runs in the first-innings. The game ultimately ended in a draw sealing a series win for the Rahul Dravid-led team.
While it has been more than a decade since that series, Karthik has shown that he can succeed in the seaming conditions of England.
With Saha likely to take the wicket-keeping gloves for India in England, Karthik might have to bide his time before he gets a chance. However, this being a five-match Test series, there is every chance of one of India’s front-line batsmen finding himself out of form.
One of those batsmen could be Cheteswar Pujara who has had a miserable time during his red-ball county stint with Yorkshire.
Also, with the Test series being preceded by the T20Is and ODIs, Karthik could make a case for himself if he performs there. As we have seen with Rohit Sharma in the tour of South Africa, skipper Virat Kohli is not averse to taking limited-overs form into account while setting up his Test side.
The BCCI announced that Shami failed to pass a fitness Test at the National Cricket Academy, which means one of the premier fast bowlers in the country will be unavailable for selection for the historic Test.
In his absence, Ishant Sharma will lead India’s pace attack alongside Umesh Yadav and all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
The development is the latest setback for Shami whose personal life was rocked by allegations of improper conduct by his estranged wife in March this year.
Meanwhile, the Indian main squad requested for India A fast bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Rajneesh Gurbani to bowl at them while training to prepare for the Test.
Apart from Shami, India will also be without regular captain Virat Kohli and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha for the first Test which wouldn’t fill the Indian contingent with a lot of confidence against a dangerous Afghan team.
Samson, who was initially named in the squad, was left out at the last minute after reportedly failing the Yo-Yo test – an endurance-specific running workout, similar to the beep test, which monitors overall fitness.
According to a report by the Times of India, the 23-year-old fell some way short of the benchmark for the Yo-Yo test which has been set at the 16.1 mark.
The Yo-Yo test has emerged as the preferred method for the Indian team in recent times to gauge the fitness level of the players with veteran batsman Yuvraj Singh famously failing the test last year.
Samson was to be a part of the India A squad which will take on the England Lions and West Indies A team in a triangular limited-overs series. However, this latest setback will do no favours to the Kerala-born batsman who has been earmarked as one of the promising stars for the future of Indian cricket.
He put in some more promising showings in the IPL this year on his return to the franchise after doing well in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Ranji Trophy for Kerala.
The Times of India report does go on to add that sources at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) have said that Samson was suffering from a few niggles and hence the low score in the fitness test.
Whether there is any truth in the report remains to be seen, but what cannot be denied is that this is a big blow for the youngster who has so far played only one T20I for the country which came against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2015.