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Murali Kartik is here to stay!
by Partab Ramchand
Oct 26, 2007
He is suddenly one of the most talked about cricketers in the land. Like he was when he finished with his Test best match haul of seven for 76 in starring in India’s sensational 13-run victory over Australia at Mumbai three years ago. Following that notable performance however Murali Kartik quickly became a forgotten man. There’s little chance of that happening a second time though. The competitive left arm spinner with the philosophical outlook has surely clinched a regular place in the ODI squad with his showing in the series against Australia.

There have been few better performances by an Indian in an ODI than Kartik’s six for 27 and a crucial 21 not out in the game at Mumbai. Twice he was on a hat trick as he turned the famed Aussie batting line up inside out with bowling that was based on classical left arm spin. Being cast in this mould Kartik should automatically be more suited to Test cricket than the shorter version of the game. It is a tribute to his manifold skills that he is able to adapt to the intricacies of limited overs cricket and be a success. He was more out than in the Indian team over the years but now with Anil Kumble having retired and Ramesh Powar’s skills on the wane he and Harbhajan Singh should form a destructive spin attack. Both are intense competitors – naturally aggressive and immensely talented – and they compliment each other admirably. Both can be pretty steady bowling a nagging line and length, cramping the batsman up for space, bowling at the pads and giving him little room to play the drive or the cut. With all that both are also wicket takers in their own right.

Kartik first played for India in the Test match against South Africa at Mumbai in February 2000. In almost eight years he has played just eight Tests and 34 ODIs. But this has not bothered him in the least. His aggressive outlook, never say die spirit and eagerness to keep improving have stood him in very good stead. He has never adopted the beaten posture that as long as Kumble and Harbhajan are around there is no place in the squad for him. He has bided his time fully aware that he remains good enough to play for the country and this self confidence is another quality that Kartik has an abundance of.

Kartik has finally secured a regular berth in the ODI squad but one supposes that he will still have to fight it out for a place in the Test side with Kumble and Harbhajan certainties – unless the selectors decide to play three spinners. It would be a dream line up – an unorthodox leg spinner, an off spinner and an orthodox left arm spinner – and one that is bound to bring back pleasant memories for old timers.

Kartik has all the qualities of a top class spinner. He has variety and keeps the batsman guessing, he is able to make the ball turn and lift as he showed in Mumbai. On a responsive pitch he can be deadly and is one bowler who can turn a match on its head with a couple of quick scalps – again as he proved in Mumbai. In Tests given his limited opportunities and his in and out appearances he has not done too badly – 24 wickets at 34 apiece is eminently respectable under the circumstances. Somehow one can only see the average and strike rate come down and the wicket tally increase. The same can be said about his ODI figures which at the moment may not seem very impressive - a tally of 35 wickets at a strike rate of 50, an economy rate of just over five and an average of 42.

More than skill or subtlety it is Kartik’s attitude that has always stood him in good stead. He just refuses to accept defeat. He is supremely confident – and this confidence of his borders on arrogance. One look at the way he performs on the field and it is easy to see that the 31-year-old Madras born player is not in the least overawed by any opposition. This was clearly in evidence during his player of the match performance against Australia at Mumbai three years ago when he emerged as the unexpected hero of a notable triumph putting into the shade Kumble and Harbhajan. Kartik refused to be just another cog in the spinning wheel and matched the efforts of the two senior bowlers in exemplary fashion. With the pitch more than helpful Kartik knew that he did not have to do much by way of variety but just maintain line and length and this he did admirably. It was his double dismissal of Ricky Ponting and top run getter of the series Damien Martyn in the same over that raised visions of a surprise Indian victory on the last day. And then a dream delivery with which he bowled the other consistent run getter in the series Michael Clarke made it virtually certain that India were home.

Kartik is not one to be overawed by the opposition. He has bowled to some of the leading batsmen in the world, attacking players all capable of making mincemeat of the best of bowling. Kartik’s style has been to take them on headlong. No defensive measures for him. He meets force with force. He adopts aggressive gestures, is all pumped up and lives up to his image of a tough-as-nails, street-smart, hard-working bowler. He's always been the kind of cricketer who backs himself and will not take rubbish from anyone. He's not shy to swear a bit when he's got a raw deal and he definitely won't be quiet if an opponent has a few choice words to share. In Kartik’s case one can say with some confidence that his best is yet to come.

 
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