What is the story behind the beaded necklace you wear?
It is not a fashion statement. On our first wedding anniversary, me and my wife were given a beaded necklace each at an ISKCON [International Society for Krishna Consciousness] temple. We were told it is good for us and would help us stay calm. I am not sure if it is marriage or the necklace that has calmed me down, but it has definitely helped.
Tell us about your collection of sunglasses.
I have some 140 pairs. I am fond of sunglasses, and thankfully Oakleys started supporting my hobby. I have given some free to my Railways team-mates, as incentives for scoring hundreds. Even if they did not [make hundreds], I gave them their prizes.
Your team-mates say you're very fussy about cleanliness.
Every time I go to the washroom, I have a shower. Same with my equipment: each time I use anything, I clean it. I think my South Indian upbringing is behind this. Once, I refused to pick up my wife, who is from the north, after she went to the beauty parlour. I asked her to take an autorickshaw. In childhood, if we went to the barber shop, we were not allowed to touch anything in the house till we took a shower.
You seem to like to talk to batsmen and get under their skin. Has that ever backfired?
Once, Railways were playing in a crucial Ranji Trophy match against Rajasthan at Karnail Singh Stadium. We had made 240-odd, and since the first-innings lead was crucial, wickets were vital. Rajasthan were going smooth at 110-odd for 1. Rahul Kamat was getting out of the crease at the non-striker's end frequently. I warned him twice but he continued to walk out. I then mankaded him. He walked away quietly, but Gagan Khoda, Kamat's cousin, who was sitting outside, came up and burst out, saying I could be the best spinner in the country but things like this were why I was not playing for India. Then Kamat ran in from nowhere with a stump in his hand, saying sweet nothings…
What's the one question the media should stop asking you?
The one about who I upset in the hierarchy to not find a strong footing in the India squad.
The best compliment you've received from a fellow cricketer?
After my Test debut, Mr Kapil Dev said that in his 20 years in the game I was first guy with such a brilliant attitude. It was a moment to cherish.
"I have some 140 pairs of sunglasses"
Have you ever played in borrowed gear?
I did not have proper shoes on my Test debut. Sanjay Bangar lent me his spikes, and when I returned them he said I could keep them, since I had played my maiden Test in them.
What kind of batsman is the most difficult to bowl to?
The batsman who has the mentality and ability to hit the good balls out of the ground. Matthew Hayden, Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen belong in that bracket.
What song would you like to be played at your funeral?
Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise".
Tell us a something we do not know about you.
I was always first in class till class nine, when I was sixth. My mother was not happy. I wanted to be a genetic engineer but ended up being a commerce graduate.
Middlesex pink or KKR purple?
I actually like the pink colour. I like the KKR black [from the first IPL season] more than the present purple.
Caught and bowled or lbw?
I like the ball going to slips. Also, if I can beat the batsman by making the ball turn off the pitch as he tries to defend before it moves to hit the off stump.
If you were an Under-19 cricketer today, what advice would you give to the teenage Murali Kartik?
Keep your mouth shut.
What do you do during rain delays?
I don't know what to do. I get bored easily. In county cricket, players go out on bicycle rides. I find that odd and funny.
Bishan Bedi has played a big role in your career. Do you have any stories involving him?
Once, many years ago, when Raj Singh Dungarpur was still alive, we were at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai. There is this beautiful picture there of Bishan paaji side-arm, about to deliver the ball. In all our years of acquaintance he never blew his own horn. That day he just said: "Look at that photograph. How still is the head?" I replied saying "Paaji, it has to be still because it is a still photo." He took it in his stride, saying, "You will never change." He is one guy you can always argue with. He is a brilliant motivator.
What is the best cricket souvenir you have?
Hayden's shirt when he made the record 380.
If you wrote a book, what would the title be?
The Axe Effect.