The various challenges posed by the conditions in the Caribbean will help India's preparation to face different situations during the T20 World Cup in Australia, according to batter Dinesh Karthik. After playing the first three T20Is in the West Indies, the teams have moved to Lauderhill in Florida for the last two games of the series this weekend.
Karthik was among those who rose above the two-paced pitch in Tarouba for the first T20I and used the asymmetric ground dimensions to his advantage. In the second and third matches in St Kitts, India had to deal with a strong cross wind. After struggling to adapt in the second T20I, India fared much better in the third to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
"I think it is very interesting because even in the World Cup straightaway the three grounds that come to my mind are Sydney - [where] the sides are slightly smaller and the straights are longer - Adelaide, we all know that the sides are very small and again, the straights are long, whereas in Melbourne, it's the exact opposite - the straights are short and the sides are very big. So, obviously, we are going to be encountering different grounds wherever we are going to be playing, so the challenges are going to be different.
"Here, the challenges have been different in every venue where we have played. So, the fact that every time you get an opportunity, there's a certain challenge that comes with just walking in. That is pressure by itself. One of the key things that Rohit [Sharma] and Rahul [Dravid] have spoken about in this series at the start was adaptability and understanding the situations. I think that is something we've done pretty well so far."
Twelve Indian players have pretty much sealed their spots for the T20 World Cup, including Karthik, which leaves seven or eight contenders competing for the remaining three slots. Given India's rich talent pool, Karthik said it would be difficult for the selectors to lock in the final 15.
"Look, right now in the Indian team, we have the potential to put out two teams or maybe even three teams, in terms of the number of players available," he said. "I don't think many countries can boast of that, so to get just 15 players playing from a good lot of 40 players, there are going to be 20-25 players that are going to think: 'geez! I could have made that team'.
Of late, Karthik has excelled in his role as a finisher, winning games for his IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore and for India - both at home and away. Since the start of IPL 2022, he has a strike rate of 205.55 in the death overs (17-20). Only James Neesham (227.65) and Tim David (226.72) have a better strike rate than Karthik in all T20s during this period. The role of a finisher comes with pressure, and Karthik has learnt to embrace it.
"Pressure is a privilege at this point of time as a cricketer [and] as a sportsperson," Karthik said. "It is something that is given to [you] only when playing at the highest level and when people expect certain things out of you. So, I'm happy; I think what's important is making sure on a given day what the match situation is, reading the game and trying to give the best on that given day."
Karthik once again credited India's team management for nurturing an environment that gave players security and the opportunity to grow into their roles, despite failures.
"This is one of the happiest that I've been part of the Indian team… the amount of love and affection that I've got, not only from the team and the fans but also the backing from the captain and the coach.
"This is what I've aimed for all my life and for the captain and coach to show so much belief in me, it is only fair that I repay the faith by giving performances which will help the team cross the line in many ways, and that is what I've been trying to do."