There are some things in cricket that money can't buy. Batting form is one of them. Dinesh Karthik's fortunes have gone from rags to riches as the Tamil Nadu batsman seems 100 per cent certain to make the Indian XI in the ICC Champions Trophy opener against South Africa here on Thursday. (See: Cardiff album - How players soaked in the Cardiff sun)
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Doubtful to make the XI in an 'infested with talent' middle-order before India set foot on Old Blighty, Karthik has staked his claim in no uncertain manner. Back-to-back centuries in pressure situations against Sri Lanka (in Birmingham) and Australia (at Swalec Stadium) has ended doubts about his batting caliber and Dhoni now calls him the team's 'special one.' (Read: No spin, no seam wicket promised by Cardiff groundsman)
On Tuesday, after India thrashed Australia by 243 runs in a warm up game here, Dhoni indicated Karthik had earned the right to make the playing XI. On Wednesday, the skipper was overflowing with praise. (Read: Dhoni says new rules will force teams to change approach)
"He is really in good touch and I am impressed the way he has batted in the middle order. He read the game very well and runs very well. Technically sound, he has all the right talent and personally I feel he is good to be in the side," Dhoni said of Karthik, who scored an unbeaten 146 against a quality pace attack after India were reeling at 55 for five. Against the Proteas, Karthik may bat as high as No. 4, a slot usually 'reserved' for Rohit Sharma. (Read: Players need to surrender mobiles before boarding team bus)
Dhoni said India were going into their Champions Trophy opener against South Africa "with a lot of confidence." After back-to-back comprehensive wins in the warm-up games against Sri Lanka and Australia, the Indian captain said there is an air of positivity in the dressing room. (Read: We have enough intelligence to hunt down Indian players, says Ab de Villiers)
Dhoni refused to reveal the playing combination against South Africa, saying it was "top secret" but indicated that specialists will be chosen ahead of part-timers. "I always believe in specialists. You have to bat in a certain position and I don't like to tamper with slots," he said, indicating India will play five bowlers on a pitch that is likely to assist the pacers.
They may not have scored the runs, but India's openers Murli Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan got the captain's vote of confidence ahead of Thursday's game. "Well, we need to see their (overall) performance and not get worried. I don't think it's ideal to speculate saying whether they will do well or not do well. I think let them go onto the field and let them perform or not perform. We will take it from there," the skipper said.
Backing Umesh Yadav to lead the Indian seam attack, Dhoni said India's unbeaten record against South African in the Champions Trophy will have little significance. India have beaten the Proteas twice but Dhoni said: 'I wasn't aware of the stats, but as I always say, it will be a fresh start and we will have to do all the right things all over again."