London: Former England off-spinners Shaun Udal and John Emburey expressed surprise at how their Middlesex associate Murali Kartik continues to be overlooked by India.
While it was Emburey who brought Kartik to Middlesex in English county cricket in 2007 after he had been impressed by his performances for Lancashire, Udal now captains left-arm spinner Kartik at the Lord’s-based club.
Kartik, 32, has played eight Tests with the first as far back as 2000 against South Africa when the late Hansie Cronje was captain, while his most recent match was in 2004, also against the Proteas. Despite continually impressing for Middlesex, Kartik is struggling for recognition from the Indian selectors.
They picked three frontline spinners for Thursday’s first Test against England at Chennai with Harbhajan Singh supported by leg-spinner Amit Mishra and Kartik’s more direct rival for a place, left-arm twirler Pragyan Ojha. The retirement of Anil Kumble was expected to open up a greater chance for Kartik’s recall but that has not been the case.
“His one-day and first-class record is top-class and I find it amazing that he is continually overlooked by the Indian selectors. It’s very strange…I don’t know why he is being ignored.” Udal, who played in the Stanford Super Series with Kartik last month, told cricketnirvana.com
“As a character he is extremely competitive, he is competitive in everything that he does but you want your spin bowlers to have a bit of an edge and a bit of aggression and he has that in abundance. He is always up for a fight and a battle and is a player captains enjoy having on their team.
“The season before I joined, in 2007, he also took a lot of wickets for Middlesex, over 50 I think it was, so he has been doing it in England for a while now. I know that I can put him on at one end and that not many runs will come from there so he allows you to build pressure.
“He is a difficult bowler for batsmen to play because he throws the ball up in their air and you think you can go down the wicket to him but he suddenly makes the ball dip. He has amazing control.”
Udal added, on Kartik’s international aspirations: “I know he is still very determined to play for India. Ultimately everybody plays the game to represent your country so he will keep trying.”
Emburey, England’s premier spin bowler in the mid to late 1980’s and now a coach in the Indian Cricket League (ICL), is also a huge supporter of Kartik, though feels he may just be a victim of circumstance now that the veteran Kumble has retired.
“Maybe the selectors feel that Harbhajan is the senior spin bowler in the team and they want youth along side him in the spin department?” Emburey reasoned. “And Murali hasn’t always been fit, which may also be another factor.
“But from my point of view, when we looked to bring a spinner to Middlesex he was the best who was available and he never let us down. The evidence of just how good he has been is in the fact the club has signed him again for next year.
“It is surprising he is not in the India squad and I can’t put a finger on why that is the case because he is a top quality spin bowler who has great variety, change of pace and the ability to get good players out on flat wickets, which we see at Lord’s.
“We had problems with our spin department as Lord’s isn’t an easy place for spinners to take wickets. It’s such a good wicket to bat on, but Murali has great patience and is prepared to wait for his opportunities, which he does create against good batsmen.
“He is as competitive as they come and it’s important that spinners have as much aggression as fast bowlers but at the same time not allow that aggression to get out of hand and to channel it in the right ways and Murali Kartik does that perfectly.”
Kartik was supposed to be playing Champions League cricket for Middlesex this month but the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai forced a postponement.
Emburey added: “I really believe the main reason Middlesex won the Twenty20 Cup this year was because of Kartik and Udal bowling together from overs 12-16, stemming the run rate at a time when the batsmen were looking to push on. They were quite brilliant together.”