Dinesh Karthik walked into bat at No. 6 on Friday at the Harare Sports Club ground when the chips were down.

Wickets were falling, Shikhar Dhawan wasn't at his best on a pitch where the ball was doing a bit, but the Tamil Nadu wicketkeeper-batsman rose to the occasion and played an innings of 69 off 74 balls that took the game away from Zimbabwe.

Dhawan, of course, settled down and blazed away to 118, but it was Karthik's innings that made the difference.

He was recalled to the Indian team ahead of the Champions Trophy and after a couple of impressive performances in the practice games, he went for nine consecutive games without a half-century.

Karthik has gone to Zimbabwe as the No. 1 wicketkeeper-batsman and that's why held on to his place, but had MS Dhoni been around, things could have got a little tight for him.

"Dinesh always had the potential with the bat. But if he has to play only as a batsman in the Indian team, he has to be more consistent," Karthik's Tamil Nadu coach WV Raman told the TOI.

It seems that the Indian team management is looking at him as the floater in the middle-order with the 2015 World Cup in mind. It's still some distance away and there are quite a few contenders, which include Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara as well, but Karthik has shown glimpses that he could be in the race till the end.

"Let's not put Karthik in the same bracket with Yuvraj...Yuvi has won India many matches for India over a long time. But yes, if you are looking at the others, Dinesh might have the edge in ODIs," Raman added.

It's Karthik's ability to play the short ball and rotate the strike in the middle overs that makes him Dhoni's favourite. He is also good in the outfield and enjoys his fielding, adding that extra zing which the skipper likes.

"It wasn't easy for him when Dhoni sealed the spot in all forms of the game. But the good thing about Dinesh is that he is ready to accept challenge," Raman said.

But for a wicketkeeper, isn't it a little difficult to try and fit in only as a batsman? Deep Dasgupta, the India Above-19 coach, who has done the job for a while for his state team Bengal, accepts.

"Initially it is...But these days, the wicketkeeper is seen as a specialist batsman...He has to have the mindset of a batsman and there's no way that his keeping abilities will be enough to keep him in the team. The runs have to come regularly, otherwise you are out," Dasgupta said.

To Karthik's advantage, he has also played Test cricket for India only as a batsman. He did well at the top in England in 2007 as India went on to win the series. Even for Tamil Nadu, he bats at No. 4 and Raman feels these experiences are going to help Karthik on his way to becoming a specialist batsman.

"He has batted in every position for India from No 1 to 7...He has a flexible game and he can always be a second wicketkeeper to Dhoni, which should give him a headstart to find a place in the squad of 15. But there's no substitute for consistency," Raman words indicated Karthik's road-map for the next year and a half.

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Keywords: Dinesh Karthik , Harare Sports Club ,Shikhar Dhawan, wicketkeeper-batsman, Champions Trophy, MS Dhoni, World Cup , Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane , Cheteshwar Pujara ,Test cricket , Karthik,cricket news,sports news