June 14, 2014

'India have missed out on a match-winner'

VVS Laxman
Murali Kartik was a complete bowler for every format and should have ended up with more than 300 Test wickets
23

One of my favourite stories about Murali Kartik concerns his name. My wife would always address him as Murali. His response, delivered in that soft yet firm tone, would be: "Murali is my father's name. My name is Kartik."

Kartik has this knack of getting close to certain people. I do not really know when and how we became such close friends. I guess a lot has to do with the common interests we share. Both of us are spiritual and religious. Both are devotees of Satya Sai Baba; Kartik's father, in fact, does voluntary service at the Satya Sai Baba Trust in Puttaparthi. Over the years, from the time he made his Test debut in 2000, we have shared a good rapport.

One big reason for me to open up to him and like him was that Kartik is a genuine person. He speaks his mind, not only on the cricket field but off it also. When that happens, you feel comfortable with a person. This feeling was mutual, as evidenced by this lovely tribute from him when I retired.

Over the years, as we started getting closer, I saw that Kartik was a very likeable character who would do anything for his friends. He was one of the few people I would call for his opinion on various issues. He is a knowledgeable guy - not only about cricket - and that is why I always pick his brains to get inputs or a different perspective.

Considering our relationship extends to over 15 years now, it is inevitable that we have shared several ups and downs. I remember the time in 2002-03 he was dropped for the ODI series in New Zealand. I cajoled him and asked him not to get disappointed. Soon afterwards, I found myself not picked for the 2003 World Cup!

Both of us were obviously disappointed when we found ourselves on the India A tour to the Caribbean. I was the captain and we had a nightmare of a series. I told him I was never going to cajole him any more, since it was landing me in trouble too!

As a player, my first impression of Kartik was how talented and skilful he was. This was in 1997, when we played against each other in successive tournaments - the Karnataka State Cricket Association tournament in Bangalore and then the Buchi Babu Memorial tournament in Chennai, with Kartik playing for India Cements and me representing Indian Airlines.

His most outstanding characteristic is his confidence. From the first day I saw him till his last match his body language and his never-say-die attitude never changed. That is a great quality to have for any cricketer to succeed at any level. It becomes much more important for a spinner because the way the modern game has progressed, it is getting tougher for a slow bowler to leave his mark. There are not many orthodox spinners left in the game - people who are willing to flight the ball, deceive the batsmen in the air, don't mind getting hit for a boundary, are always on the prowl, looking for a wicket. Kartik always possessed those characteristics and never compromised on them.

He is an intelligent person, a quality he brought to his cricket too. He is a good student of cricket and read the game, batsmen and situations well. He is a complete bowler for every level and all formats.

His primary strength is his skill. In my book, a spinner is dangerous when he is not defensive but always attacking and eyeing wickets. Kartik always had the desire to take wickets. And even if there were occasions when the batsman was on top, Kartik would never admit it. I never saw him bowl a bad spell. He might not have got wickets but he always had control; that and his variations allowed him to stay on top.

He is a good student of cricket and read the game, batsmen and situations well. He is a complete bowler for every level and all formats

In my eyes, the best spell Kartik bowled came during the Irani Cup against Mumbai in 2000, when he grabbed nine wickets in the second innings to win us the match. I was leading Rest of India and allowed Kartik to bowl unchanged on the fourth morning from the Tata End. It was unfortunate that he did not become the fifth bowler in Indian first-class cricket to achieve the feat of taking ten wickets in an innings. Kartik was always a wicket-taking bowler, someone a captain could rely on, and to me he was always a match-winner.

While Kartik had the potential to become a match-winner, unfortunately during his heyday he underwent a lot of disappointments. In 2007 he had a very good ODI series against Australia in India. He finished as the second-best Indian bowler, including taking the Man-of-the-Match award in the final match of the series, in Mumbai. On the back of such a good performance he was looking forward to travel to Australia to play in CB Series. To his utter disappointment he was not even picked in the squad. I know for a fact that he was devastated by that experience.

On the outside Kartik can come across as a bold and aggressive man. But he is very sensitive. And so it is just brilliant the way he has handled various tough experiences throughout his career. He always put up a brave face.

Kartik has endured a lot, all through his career. Until you experience it, you cannot understand how tough it is to always carry on fighting. On the inside you are disappointed, you are frustrated, the pain is deep. And you think: Why does it always happen to me? I thought Kartik might occasionally feel bad, angry at the injustice; but he never showed it. Only to a select few did he reveal he could have been treated better. He never let the disappointments affect his game and the way he carried himself on the field. And that was the hallmark of his career.

Kartik is a philosophical man. He learned through his experience that whatever happens does so for a reason. And he always took the positives - at least he played for India, played for Railways, played in county cricket, had the respect of his team-mates and opponents.

One has to also understand that Kartik played for a team like Railways in the Indian domestic circuit where the facilities have always been sparse. But though he did not get his due at the international level, he always went back to domestic or county cricket without ever letting the disappointment discourage him from performing.

He took a lot of pride in performance, no matter who he was playing for, or whether it was a competitive match or just a net session. He never let the batsman play with freedom.

Once he realised that his chances of playing again for India had evaporated, he turned his focus to giving back what he had learned to his Railways team-mates. He fought for their rights with the authorities. He always had a soft corner for the team; last year, he took up the captaincy just so he could mentor the youngsters.

I have relied a lot on Kartik to get inputs on domestic players when picking players at Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. It was he who suggested that I pick Karn Sharma and Amit Paunikar.

Despite his disappointments, Kartik has remained selfless and has been open to sharing with youngsters his inputs and insights. Recently, Akshar Patel excelled during Kings XI Punjab's run to their maiden IPL final. I am certain Kartik must have played some role in Patel doing well. It did not matter to Kartik that he was sitting on the bench despite being the more experienced spinner.

When he called me earlier this week to tell me that his time was up, it was a sad moment. But I can understand his decision. Kartik was unfortunate that he played when Anil Kumble and Bhajji [Harbhajan Singh] were in their prime. But maybe when Anil retired, Kartik could have been given more opportunities. He is a bowler who should have taken more than 300 Test wickets. Indian cricket has missed out on a match-winner.

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on June 17, 2014, 21:32 GMT

    Indian cricket being held with vestiges from past-Murali was unlucky when reputations were used instead of form in picking the best spinners...Karthik should have gotten 100 wickets in test atleast....

  • Nampally on June 17, 2014, 19:56 GMT

    It is sad to see no other Cricketer apart from Laxman came out with tributes to Murali on his retirement. Kartik was so profuse in his tributes to VVS Laxman both as a friend & as a Cricketer. Laxman did his tributes not as a pay back but from the bottom of his heart. Murali played for Railways in Ranji & was born in Chennai. He also had a match winning performance in Tests vs. the Aussies. Most professionals - be it athletes, Cricketers or Engineers, Doctors or academic professionals, always get some farewell tributes on their retirement. I have observed this in every walk of life. India needs to improve in this area too - especially the Indian Cricketers. Sad reflection of changing times. I as a Cricket Fan appreciated your Cricketing skills which were grossly under utilised by India. I am sure your skills will be put to good use in alternate profession because you have another 50 years of life ahead of you. I put you in class of Great Kunderan when it came to appreciation!

  • on June 16, 2014, 19:04 GMT

    .Salute you Karthik. Wish he had got atleast 1/4th of the chance Ishanth got

  • dailycric on June 16, 2014, 15:13 GMT

    a really nice tribute to a really fine bowler. without a doubt, kartik was the second-best spinner in india in the 2000s after kumble, and was treated badly. every time he turned in a match-winning performance against australia, dropped. however, thanks to the author's humility, one thing that isn't mentioned is how well laxman captained kartik when the two played together. for all his other virtues, ganguly was never a good captain to left-arm spinners; but i saw laxman set fields for kartik in the 2002 challenger trophy, in which kartik was a huge success (only to be ignored for india) - and it was genius. some of the most attacking captaincy to a spinner i have ever seen, even though it was a limited overs series. dhoni wouldn't give his spinners such support in a test match! i hope for a future when sanjay bangar is india coach and kartik a selector. these two railways stalwarts have been ambassadors to the game while languishing in domestic cricket. hats off, sir!

  • on June 16, 2014, 12:42 GMT

    The article shows the depth of friendship between two gentlemen cricketers. To me , VVS was better than Sachin and Dravid for the sheer fluidity of his batting style and to do wonders in the company of tailenders. Murali Kartik was a very crafty bowler. On the whole, let us wish Kartik all the very best in his future endeavours.

  • vish57 on June 16, 2014, 9:30 GMT

    Tough a good spinner, he lacked consistency in taking wickets which is a hallmark of any bowler; learnt from this article that he is a good human, good luck to him for his media role or coaching role.

  • baba6660 on June 16, 2014, 8:47 GMT

    Quite a few left arm spinners like Dilip Doshi, Padmakar Shivalkar and Rajinder Goel played very few/hardly played/never played for India despite being brilliant spinners. The reason being lack of space, since the team could accommodate only a couple of spinners. I guess Murali Kartik unfortunately met with similar fate. 20/20 format is mainly assisting Leg Spinners or Defensive Left Arm Spinners and Murali Kartik again doesn't fit in those categories and was finding himself in & out of the matches. I am sure he has lots to contribute as a commentator & writer, since he is intelligent and articulate.

  • on June 16, 2014, 4:30 GMT

    All the best Karthik for you retried life. Most of the talented guys never perform at the highest level because of the pressure. The pressure to keep their place and if they don't get a supportive captain they are always under pressure to keep their place. This will ruin their career which happened not only Kathik also for Ramesh, Sujith Somasundar and Vijay Bharadwaj.

  • TheStaroftheEast on June 15, 2014, 18:15 GMT

    Murali was an average spinners nuthing else

  • AjayB on June 15, 2014, 13:23 GMT

    He seems a genuine and definitely an intelligent person. Like he himself said - so many people would give up a lot - just to be in his place for a day. It could be a tad unfair at this point to evaluate his career or compare him with others or indulge in a post-mortem.

    So thanks to Kartik for all he has done for the country and the game of cricket. With such abilities and intellect I am definitely sure we will see him around enriching the game for more time to come.

  • on June 17, 2014, 21:32 GMT

    Indian cricket being held with vestiges from past-Murali was unlucky when reputations were used instead of form in picking the best spinners...Karthik should have gotten 100 wickets in test atleast....

  • Nampally on June 17, 2014, 19:56 GMT

    It is sad to see no other Cricketer apart from Laxman came out with tributes to Murali on his retirement. Kartik was so profuse in his tributes to VVS Laxman both as a friend & as a Cricketer. Laxman did his tributes not as a pay back but from the bottom of his heart. Murali played for Railways in Ranji & was born in Chennai. He also had a match winning performance in Tests vs. the Aussies. Most professionals - be it athletes, Cricketers or Engineers, Doctors or academic professionals, always get some farewell tributes on their retirement. I have observed this in every walk of life. India needs to improve in this area too - especially the Indian Cricketers. Sad reflection of changing times. I as a Cricket Fan appreciated your Cricketing skills which were grossly under utilised by India. I am sure your skills will be put to good use in alternate profession because you have another 50 years of life ahead of you. I put you in class of Great Kunderan when it came to appreciation!

  • on June 16, 2014, 19:04 GMT

    .Salute you Karthik. Wish he had got atleast 1/4th of the chance Ishanth got

  • dailycric on June 16, 2014, 15:13 GMT

    a really nice tribute to a really fine bowler. without a doubt, kartik was the second-best spinner in india in the 2000s after kumble, and was treated badly. every time he turned in a match-winning performance against australia, dropped. however, thanks to the author's humility, one thing that isn't mentioned is how well laxman captained kartik when the two played together. for all his other virtues, ganguly was never a good captain to left-arm spinners; but i saw laxman set fields for kartik in the 2002 challenger trophy, in which kartik was a huge success (only to be ignored for india) - and it was genius. some of the most attacking captaincy to a spinner i have ever seen, even though it was a limited overs series. dhoni wouldn't give his spinners such support in a test match! i hope for a future when sanjay bangar is india coach and kartik a selector. these two railways stalwarts have been ambassadors to the game while languishing in domestic cricket. hats off, sir!

  • on June 16, 2014, 12:42 GMT

    The article shows the depth of friendship between two gentlemen cricketers. To me , VVS was better than Sachin and Dravid for the sheer fluidity of his batting style and to do wonders in the company of tailenders. Murali Kartik was a very crafty bowler. On the whole, let us wish Kartik all the very best in his future endeavours.

  • vish57 on June 16, 2014, 9:30 GMT

    Tough a good spinner, he lacked consistency in taking wickets which is a hallmark of any bowler; learnt from this article that he is a good human, good luck to him for his media role or coaching role.

  • baba6660 on June 16, 2014, 8:47 GMT

    Quite a few left arm spinners like Dilip Doshi, Padmakar Shivalkar and Rajinder Goel played very few/hardly played/never played for India despite being brilliant spinners. The reason being lack of space, since the team could accommodate only a couple of spinners. I guess Murali Kartik unfortunately met with similar fate. 20/20 format is mainly assisting Leg Spinners or Defensive Left Arm Spinners and Murali Kartik again doesn't fit in those categories and was finding himself in & out of the matches. I am sure he has lots to contribute as a commentator & writer, since he is intelligent and articulate.

  • on June 16, 2014, 4:30 GMT

    All the best Karthik for you retried life. Most of the talented guys never perform at the highest level because of the pressure. The pressure to keep their place and if they don't get a supportive captain they are always under pressure to keep their place. This will ruin their career which happened not only Kathik also for Ramesh, Sujith Somasundar and Vijay Bharadwaj.

  • TheStaroftheEast on June 15, 2014, 18:15 GMT

    Murali was an average spinners nuthing else

  • AjayB on June 15, 2014, 13:23 GMT

    He seems a genuine and definitely an intelligent person. Like he himself said - so many people would give up a lot - just to be in his place for a day. It could be a tad unfair at this point to evaluate his career or compare him with others or indulge in a post-mortem.

    So thanks to Kartik for all he has done for the country and the game of cricket. With such abilities and intellect I am definitely sure we will see him around enriching the game for more time to come.

  • yoohoo on June 15, 2014, 9:30 GMT

    he was talented, but his numbers never really stacked up. a wicket per match in ODIs at 42+ avg and a 33+ avg in tests. He couldn't grab the chances he got consistently.

  • on June 15, 2014, 8:37 GMT

    Among people who closely follow Indian Cricket, there is an unanimous consensus that Murali Karthik was given a raw deal.On the weight on his international performances alone, he deserved more appearances than what he got.

    Wonderful and genuine article by our VVS!! Wish Murali Karthik all the best in his future endeavours!!

  • Sir_Ivor on June 15, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    Murali Karthik should ideally have played alongside of Kumble ad Harbhajan for India. Unfortunately he played just 8 Tests when he should have got at least about 70 odd test matches. When I think of his career, I am reminded of Dilip Doshii, who was unfortunate to have been at his prime when Bishen Bedi was still around.But Dilip still managed to play a few tests which helped him carve a niche for himself. I thnk,Karthik suffered on account of his period having co-incided with Saurav Ganguly's captaincy.Ganguly preferred Harbhajan and was not overly fascinated with left arm spin. It probably has to do with how easily he himself used to cart around the best of left arm spin bowling as a batsman.Personally,I feel he should have come in as a regular once Kumble retired. As VVS has said,he was a match winner.He had that confidence which could un-nerve batsmen.A wily spin bowler cast in the Bedi mould. i wish he could transefer his skills to some young player.Indian cricket would be richer.

  • Nampally on June 15, 2014, 0:42 GMT

    Murali Kartik was a great spinner who deserved to play for India despite Kumble & Harbhajan in XI. He was quite different to either spinners. He reminded me of Durrani, who spun the ball & flighted as well. Durrani was a somewhat of a Lazy sounding genius who while taking it easy produced. But unlike Durrani Kartik was always trying hard. He deserved to be in the XI when Dhoni's XI were getting clobbered in their Last Tour. He was actually playing in England & was taking lot of wkts. too. But strangely it was Mishra who was called in. If that is not insulting then the word needs redefining! Sadly the "establishment" was always against Murali - because he spoke his mind. As a Cricketer his place was in Indian XI rather than persist with Harbhajan in his last 2 years in the Indian Team. Kunderan was other great Cricketer who got a raw deal like Murali. Pujara also fell into the same trap when omitted from ODI's when India had no reliable #4 bat. Hats off to Murali on a great career!

  • xylo on June 14, 2014, 23:42 GMT

    gee...one thing that I learned from these tributes...Kartik is an outstanding writer. Laxman...needs a lot of work to get there.

  • bhushanB on June 14, 2014, 20:46 GMT

    Orthodox...genuine spinner....should have got more opportunities as Laxman mentioned....How someone gets dropped after being the man-of-the-match in a final.....(or a man of the series like Ojha in ENG 2012) is very difficult to fathom....Good luck Karthik.... we are unfortunate to have missed out on your services....

    Hopefully Ojha does not become another Karthik...

  • VijayRajan on June 14, 2014, 20:04 GMT

    Nice Chap M Kartik. Recall how he was in the commentary team in 2007 after DhoneI(captain returning after victory in T-20 WC) asked him to join the team as MK is a good bowler.

    Have heard from sources that Tendulkar did not like M Kartik too much & preferred Harbhajan which changed after Dravid became in the side. In the high scoring odi against Pakistan in Karachi, http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64880.html?innings=2;page=1;view=commentary , I recall MK tieing down Inzy.

  • on June 14, 2014, 18:59 GMT

    Great comparison Deepanjan, Kartik was certainly the Brad Hodge of India

  • on June 14, 2014, 18:27 GMT

    Once of the top class left arm spin bowlers, india has produced recently but unfortunately...people like harbhajan[with lot less skills] got lot of chances but he did not...I like his comments on the cricket on TV channel..and looking forward to watch him on TV. I have seen him once in pune and he is lot taller that what he appears..on TV..

    Thanks laxman to reminding the selector that what did they lost and hopefully will not make those mistakes again, himself the best timer of the ball in the whole world.

    I always..liked Kartik's bowling, He can be a better coach with his insight...I will suggest him for that Career...Best of luck to him for the future...

  • Vilander on June 14, 2014, 17:27 GMT

    We had harbjhan and Anil then now we do not have the same class so M Karthik seems such a good option now, unfortunately for him he was born in a wrong time.

  • vatsap on June 14, 2014, 14:28 GMT

    Thank you VVS. One of the most genuine Indian cricketers appreciating another. Extremely unlucky M Karthik, intelligent, forthcoming and articulate in his thoughts. Indian administrators could learn about sending our youngsters to England for the county season to get more experience, based on how he performed. Very unfortunate that he played in the same time like Kumble and Harbhajan. With a little more favorable captain, he could have got more chances. Sourav Ganguly primarily used him as a defensive spinner early on in his career. May be the Sydney Test in 2003-04 was the turning point, Karthik was not able to make a big impact on the last day.

    Indian cricket will never take a liking to such straight speaking folks and will mistake it for arrogance.

    Farewell Karthik and hope we see more of you helping Indian Cricket.

  • on June 14, 2014, 14:24 GMT

    He was with a good cricketing brain , wish him best of luck for his future. Tnx Laxman for this article , it's nice.

  • on June 14, 2014, 14:00 GMT

    Tend to agree, despite not being acutely aware of domestic cricket scene always - Murali Kartik always struck me as a confident, positive man who would go for wickets. It's unfortunate that his crowning test cricket moment was sullied was a seriously underprepared dustbowl in Mumbai. His career luck was like Brad Hodge for Australia, simply coincided with a great era. Besides, Ganguly was enamored by Harbhajan, so he never quite considered Kartik as the second option. But that shouldn't take away anything from a top-class talent. He, along with Hyderabad's Kanwaljeet Singh are perhaps two men who were hard done by. That he dealt with such poise is commendable.

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  • on June 14, 2014, 14:00 GMT

    Tend to agree, despite not being acutely aware of domestic cricket scene always - Murali Kartik always struck me as a confident, positive man who would go for wickets. It's unfortunate that his crowning test cricket moment was sullied was a seriously underprepared dustbowl in Mumbai. His career luck was like Brad Hodge for Australia, simply coincided with a great era. Besides, Ganguly was enamored by Harbhajan, so he never quite considered Kartik as the second option. But that shouldn't take away anything from a top-class talent. He, along with Hyderabad's Kanwaljeet Singh are perhaps two men who were hard done by. That he dealt with such poise is commendable.

  • on June 14, 2014, 14:24 GMT

    He was with a good cricketing brain , wish him best of luck for his future. Tnx Laxman for this article , it's nice.

  • vatsap on June 14, 2014, 14:28 GMT

    Thank you VVS. One of the most genuine Indian cricketers appreciating another. Extremely unlucky M Karthik, intelligent, forthcoming and articulate in his thoughts. Indian administrators could learn about sending our youngsters to England for the county season to get more experience, based on how he performed. Very unfortunate that he played in the same time like Kumble and Harbhajan. With a little more favorable captain, he could have got more chances. Sourav Ganguly primarily used him as a defensive spinner early on in his career. May be the Sydney Test in 2003-04 was the turning point, Karthik was not able to make a big impact on the last day.

    Indian cricket will never take a liking to such straight speaking folks and will mistake it for arrogance.

    Farewell Karthik and hope we see more of you helping Indian Cricket.

  • Vilander on June 14, 2014, 17:27 GMT

    We had harbjhan and Anil then now we do not have the same class so M Karthik seems such a good option now, unfortunately for him he was born in a wrong time.

  • on June 14, 2014, 18:27 GMT

    Once of the top class left arm spin bowlers, india has produced recently but unfortunately...people like harbhajan[with lot less skills] got lot of chances but he did not...I like his comments on the cricket on TV channel..and looking forward to watch him on TV. I have seen him once in pune and he is lot taller that what he appears..on TV..

    Thanks laxman to reminding the selector that what did they lost and hopefully will not make those mistakes again, himself the best timer of the ball in the whole world.

    I always..liked Kartik's bowling, He can be a better coach with his insight...I will suggest him for that Career...Best of luck to him for the future...

  • on June 14, 2014, 18:59 GMT

    Great comparison Deepanjan, Kartik was certainly the Brad Hodge of India

  • VijayRajan on June 14, 2014, 20:04 GMT

    Nice Chap M Kartik. Recall how he was in the commentary team in 2007 after DhoneI(captain returning after victory in T-20 WC) asked him to join the team as MK is a good bowler.

    Have heard from sources that Tendulkar did not like M Kartik too much & preferred Harbhajan which changed after Dravid became in the side. In the high scoring odi against Pakistan in Karachi, http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64880.html?innings=2;page=1;view=commentary , I recall MK tieing down Inzy.

  • bhushanB on June 14, 2014, 20:46 GMT

    Orthodox...genuine spinner....should have got more opportunities as Laxman mentioned....How someone gets dropped after being the man-of-the-match in a final.....(or a man of the series like Ojha in ENG 2012) is very difficult to fathom....Good luck Karthik.... we are unfortunate to have missed out on your services....

    Hopefully Ojha does not become another Karthik...

  • xylo on June 14, 2014, 23:42 GMT

    gee...one thing that I learned from these tributes...Kartik is an outstanding writer. Laxman...needs a lot of work to get there.

  • Nampally on June 15, 2014, 0:42 GMT

    Murali Kartik was a great spinner who deserved to play for India despite Kumble & Harbhajan in XI. He was quite different to either spinners. He reminded me of Durrani, who spun the ball & flighted as well. Durrani was a somewhat of a Lazy sounding genius who while taking it easy produced. But unlike Durrani Kartik was always trying hard. He deserved to be in the XI when Dhoni's XI were getting clobbered in their Last Tour. He was actually playing in England & was taking lot of wkts. too. But strangely it was Mishra who was called in. If that is not insulting then the word needs redefining! Sadly the "establishment" was always against Murali - because he spoke his mind. As a Cricketer his place was in Indian XI rather than persist with Harbhajan in his last 2 years in the Indian Team. Kunderan was other great Cricketer who got a raw deal like Murali. Pujara also fell into the same trap when omitted from ODI's when India had no reliable #4 bat. Hats off to Murali on a great career!