July 30, 2008

Mike Holmans

Shine Udal

Mike Holmans
Not bad for a 37-year-old...Shaun Udal throws his arms up in delight after taking another wicket. He finished with 4 for 14, India v England, 3rd Test, Mumbai, March 22, 2006
 © AFP
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Incredible! Not only was the Twenty20 Final a fantastic game of cricket, but Middlesex won their first trophy since Mike Gatting was playing. And in a format which they have been useless at for the five previous years of the tournament.

But it was the semi-final which really showed up the injustice of the Man of the Match system. Tyron Henderson got it for his quickfire 59 but the real engineers of the win were, as usual, Murali Kartik and Shaun Udal, the two spinners who delivered overs 7-14 for a mere 36 runs. Throughout the tournament their typical combined figures have been 8-0-43-2, the equivalent of putting the opposition batsmen in a box and sitting on the lid for eight overs, or 40% of the innings, and it’s been the ‘Flash Harries’ who’ve got the 60 in 40 balls who walk off with the Man-of-the-Match awards.

The big difference in Middlesex this year is that they had found the missing piece of the machine. Whereas last year Kartik’s four overs of excellence got lost amid the dross, this year he has had Udal to back him up and they have been oppressive enough to ensure that the batsmen have rarely had to trouble 160. Middlesex’s rickety Twenty20 contraption which fell to bits as soon as it was pushed last year gained in Udal the cross-strut which made it into a stable and powerful engine.

“The Udal Story” ought to be a Frank Capra movie starring Jimmy Stewart. The young man gets his first job as a cricketer and does pretty well, then falls into bad company and loses his way. Running around with the feckless ne’er-do-wells who laughingly call themselves England’s one-day team rarely does anyone any good, but Udal sees the error of his ways pretty quickly and then settles down to a life of honest toil as a good county spinner. Years later, as he begins to coast to retirement, a stranger arrives from across the sea and reinvigorates him, and then by a strange set of accidents there’s a vacancy in the England side and he gets picked. Off they go to India, and in a dramatic vital match the new young pretender [Monty Panesar] loses his nerve and bowls rubbish while the old guy bowls his team to victory.

Thinking his career over, though at least he’s now got the tale of how he won the Test in Mumbai to tell his grandchildren, he decides to hang up his boots, but then John Emburey, coach to a bunch of kids who have failed over and over again, asks him to come and help them out. “Please, mister, will ya, please?” mew the little kittens, and Udal can’t disappoint them so he agrees.

And he and his new kids then go out and win every match (just about), go to the play-offs and win the grand final. How heartwarming can you get? You’d need a Capra not to make such a movie sickly.

We haven’t yet seen the closing scenes: we don’t know how this film will end. There’s going to be one in Antigua, and maybe another in India or somewhere, and then there’s the question of whether he will want to come back again next year. At the age of 39, Shaun Udal may not feel like a full County Championship, but Middlesex’s chances of retaining the Twenty20 Cup in 2009 will disappear entirely if he retires.

Maybe my naming him my Man of the Tournament will persuade him to at least be around for the Twenty20. If Shaun Pollock, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath can manage these four-over spells in their dotage, surely Shaun Udal can too.

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Posted by Gohil on (July 31, 2008, 15:48 GMT)

Kartik has been a consistent performer in the English domestic circuit - why because he has been respected by his various clubs and given a fair run. He never had that at International level (nor IPL) and its a shambolic waste of a true talent. If you hear what the English expert pundits say about MK - they see him as the best thing since sliced bread, and these are true greats of the game. It's just a shame he has never had the same level of respect by his own people.

He should be playing in Sri Lanka right now, but he will relish in the victory on Saturday and onto whatever Stanford/IPL platform he moves to next. The Indian selectors have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and consider him for the forthcoming Australia and England series - against players that he has clearly had the 'Indian Sign' over.

Posted by Tongy on (July 30, 2008, 11:22 GMT)

I was at the Twenty20 finals and Middlesex's usage of Kartik and Udal was indeed the catalyst to their victory. It makes one wonder whether captain's will consider playing with perhaps three or four spinners as they now appear more effective in stemming the flow of boundaries. Mind you, they would need to be spinners of good quality as anything sub standard would be punished. And what about Udal for the England Twenty20 team? Even at the age of 39 he offers plenty both with bat and ball, i also witnessed an innings of 40 off of 19 balls against Hampshire, and seems more effective than players many years his junior. My county Hampshire were mad to let him go. An Indian summer indeed for a south coast legend.

Posted by hossain on (July 30, 2008, 11:10 GMT)

To improve T20, I suggest that bowlers be allowed to bowl 5 overs each. One of the problems with ODI's is the mediocrity usually served up by the 5th bowler.

5 overs isn't a lot for a bowler to bowl, but it would improve the standard of play and tilt the balance slightly towards the bowlers making it a more even contest between bat and ball.

Posted by Travis on (July 30, 2008, 10:00 GMT)

Ok if you work it out between Murali Kartik and Shaun Udal yes they bowled well but its still going for around 5 an over where as Hendersons strike rate was just under 300 for that innings and its not like it was 9 off 3 balls. In the context of the game it was a huge innings and if he had got our early the game may have been tighter

Posted by KRK on (July 30, 2008, 9:00 GMT)

Well, it's really not fair to compare the two tournaments considering one is the equivalent of a national domestic competition whereas the other is an exhibition of some of the best, most highly respected cricketers in the international scene.

Posted by SanjayN on (July 30, 2008, 8:56 GMT)

Nothing to do with playing standards and everything to do with being given confidence by the team skipper. At Middx, Kartik knows he's an important player, he got the nod ahead of Vaas as the overseas player for this season. Back in India, Kartik has always been handled poorly by Ganguly who is otherwise a shrewd captian.

In fact, Ganguly is just a poor judge of left arm spinners. I've observed him giving left armers tweakers 4 over spells in Test cricket which is plain ridiculous. And that's if one managed to sneak into the team during his tenure. It's Kartik's bad luck to have ended up with the pompous Kolkatta franchise. No coincidence that when he was drafted in for the national team against the world's best (Oz)- in last year's ODI series - he did very well and has a good record against Ponting.

Kartik should be playing for the national team right now instead of Harbhajan. India needs a spinner who can take the ball away from the RH batsman.

Posted by Mohan on (July 30, 2008, 5:57 GMT)

shaniva, I don't think English conditions can be considered helpful to a spinner more than Indian pitches.

Only other cricketer I could find in common (cursory glance) was Gibbs.

Gibbs in IPL - 9m 167 runs @18.5, s/r 109 Gibbs in T20 cup - 8m 281 runs @56.2 s/r 143

Posted by shaniva b on (July 30, 2008, 5:23 GMT)

But what about the conditions?

Posted by Mohan on (July 30, 2008, 5:14 GMT)

Murali Kartik in IPL - 6m 3w @ 42.33, ER 8.65 Murali Kartik in T20 cup - 11m 14w @ 20, ER 6.7

Just goes to show the huge gap in standards of the two tournaments.

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