Murali Kartik © Getty Images
Murali Kartik © Getty Images

Murali Kartik was born September 11, 1976. Had he been born a decade earlier or later he could have ended up playing at least 50 Tests instead of the eight he eventually played. Despite being one of the finest left-arm spinners in the world in the early 2000s, it was unfortunate he had to compete with two of the top 10 highest wicket-takers in the history of the sport —Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh — for a place in the national side.

A master of loop and control (and, of course, the famous arm-ball), he scalped 24 wickets from 8 Tests at 34.16 and 37 wickets from 37 ODIs, conceding only 5.07 runs an over in an era where ODIs were played on the most placid of tracks. In a way he was the bridge between the classical left-arm spinners like Bishan Bedi and the modern-day spinners who rely more on relentless accuracy: he specialised in both.

Kartik was one of the masterminds in the rise of the Railways Ranji Trophy team in the early 2000s. He has thus far picked up 640 First-Class wickets at 26.55, with 36 five-fors and 5 ten-fors, setting quite a few records in the process.

Abhishek Mukherjee met up with Murali Kartik for a wide-ranging chat on his life and times in cricket.

Excerpts from an interview:

CricketCountry (CC): You had started as a Delhi Under-16 player, but shifted to the less fancied Railways Under-19 squad. What prompted you to make the change? Why did you not consider moving to another North Indian state like Punjab or Haryana?

Murali Kartik (MK): I wanted to play for Delhi Under-19, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. But I got picked in the Delhi Ranji Trophy team! Both Maninder Singh and Manoj Prabhakar [the captain] had saw something in me and I was in the squad for two games; I did not play a match, and was dropped. At that time Maninder Singh wanted to make a comeback to the Test side, so he told me to go and try somewhere else.

At that point of time Abhay Sharma of Railways asked me to join Railways. So I made the shift to the Railways Under-19 team and after two years made it to their Ranji Trophy team.

As for not moving to another North Indian state, I guess I was too young. Abhay was my senior at school; we had played at the same National Stadium, so I was comfortable joining the Railways side.

CC: You were a medium-pacer to begin with: what triggered a move to spin?

MK: I used to bowl seam-up with the new ball and batted at No. 4, and also bowled left-arm darts (left-arm goes up instinctively to imitate action). The reason behind this was the fact that while growing up I had always modelled myself on Sir Garfield Sobers, and like him I wanted to do everything. That was the reason why I switched to left-arm slow once the ball stopped seaming. Left-arm slow darts (smiles). I was 5’2″ then, after finishing my 10th standard. To be a seamer you obviously need to be strong and tall. What you see me now (6’) is not what I was then; I was really skinny, thin and short.

MP Singh was the coach at National Stadium at that time. He told me “if you want to go higher up in cricket you have to give up bowling your left-arm dobblers. They’re not going to take you anywhere.” MP Singh sir changed my grip and the ball started spinning even with my darts.

It also had a lot to do with being at the right place at the right time. Maninder Singh used to train at the National Stadium those days. As I said, he was trying to make a comeback into the national side, and Bishan Bedi used to be around to sort out the technical problems of his bowling. Bishan-paaji and Maninder both took an interest in me and I learnt a lot from them about the nuances of spin bowling.

CC: What about the arm-ball?

MK: Oh, that’s nothing special.

CC: It can’t be that. The first thought that comes to mind when one thinks of Murali Kartik is the arm-ball!

MK: Spin bowling involves a lot of individual ‘feel’. The ‘feel’ is not something that you can explain to everybody. These are things you understand when you bowl, trying to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. For me, having played with two of the best exponents of left-arm spinners made me understand the nuances of the art. Thankfully I was very young then; I was 16, and could still be modified. That helped.

CC: What about the stamina? You’re one of those bowlers who is known for bowling throughout the day — something Indian spinners often have to do a lot on the placid pitches in domestic cricket. But you have thrived under such challenges.

MK: I had started as an empty slate, and all I had was a natural action. I had to change my style from a seamer to a spinner. I had no idea about what left arm spin was. There is a difference between walking four steps, bowling slow and trying to spin the ball, and actually bowling left-arm spin.

I had to work really hard to develop that instinct, which may have been a reason for me being able to bowl long spells. People have seen me on the field and off the field: on the field I am very competitive. It also helped that from an early age I was looked upon as a frontline match-winning bowler; that also fuelled my urge to go on.

CC: So what triggered the switch from being good in academics to playing cricket?

MK: When I was young I originally wanted to be a genetic engineer, but my dad kept saying that if I should pursue cricket and take it up more seriously. At that point I knew that I would not be able to pursue with genetics if I wanted to have a career in cricket.

CC: Despite the fact that you were from an academic family, nobody in your family objected to your being a cricketer?

MK: My mom did. When I was in school I always stood first in my class till the ninth standard. When cricket took on my rank went down to five or six; my Mom wasn’t happy with that.

CC: By that time you were already in Delhi Under-16…

MK: Yes. But mom wanted me to study and improve my ranks, while dad encouraged me to play.

As for commerce, I could have done a BA, but I didn’t think I was cut out for BA. Commerce was convenient. I liked things like taxation; even now all I know is that debit is this side (gestures) and credit is this side (gestures again).

CC: But the academic traits remained: on the Pakistan team you and [Rahul] Dravid took out time to visit Taxila…?

MK: Oh, it was nothing academic. I have always loved travelling and have been interested in wildlife and photography. These are matters of interest for me, just like golf.

CC: So you are not into serious golfing?

MK: I do take golf seriously, but it takes a lot of your time. When you’re much younger and don’t have a career in front of you have that kind of time. But right now, when you’ve reached this age it’s not really easy to take up something that involves that amount of time.

Cricket involves a lot of sacrifices. I have sacrificed a lot of family time for cricket. We haven’t had a proper vacation together, no holidays — we didn’t even have a honeymoon! Whatever travel has been there in the past years it has almost always been about cricket.

Now, for me to do that again, if I embark on another career, it won’t be right: it won’t be fair to my family. I do not want to play it professionally — I just want to be good at it.

CC: Coming back to your early days, Kulamani Parida was all along there with you, right from the Under-19 days. The two of you had formed a formidable pair for Railways for a long period of time. How did you work as a pair? Did you plan strategies together for the opposition batsmen?

MK: No, we did not build up strategies. However, both of us were hungry for wickets and did well together. We have shared rooms all along, and we can do anything for each other. It is that kind of a friendship: when one of us took wickets the other was the first to come up and congratulate him. Feelings like that cannot be expressed in words. We were willing to do any sacrifice for the sake of the other.

CC: The Railways players have made their ways through various levels of struggle over the years. Has that changed in the last decade?

MK: There are 32 disciplines under the Railways Sports Committee. You cannot give preferential treatment to any of them. The other state boards have bodies of their own. These days we still get match fees and flights; otherwise, for a long time, we had to travel by train.

Imagine, if we had to play in Guwahati in Assam, and then had to play Kerala, we had to travel by train while the others were flying! Whatever money we earned from playing was not enough. Whatever money was required from our travelling, lodging, meals came from the Railway Budget.

CC: There have also been complaints about the facilities at the Karnail Singh Stadium…

MK: We have never got any grant from BCCI for that. Railways had to pay for everything. All this still remained after we won the Ranji Trophy twice, beat Rest of India twice, and also won a One-Day cup!

CC: Given all that, how did the Railways side manage to pull off such amazing results last decade?

MK: I think we had a batch of very good players, but the biggest thing was that everyone considered team success to be of paramount importance. All of us were the happiest when the team achieved something. That’s what kept us going. We had excellent batsmen like Yere Goud, Sanjay Bangar, JP Yadav, a strong seam attack…

CC: Your debut came in a humdinger against Madhya Pradesh. Do you have any special memories of the match?

MK: Yes, we had almost won the match after following on [Madhya Pradesh 329 and 89 for 8, Railways 122 and 313]. I batted at 3 in the match and got forty-odd [47]; then I missed one from Rajesh Chauhan, Chandu-bhai [Chandrakant Pandit] appealed and the umpire gave me out.

CC: Your family shifted to Madras in 1996, but you stayed back. You played Club Cricket in Madras, mostly for Vijay Cricket Club…

MK: Yes. My mother passed away in 1996; I stayed back with some family friends. I have played for Vijay CC (one of India Cements team in the Madras First-Division League) for six to seven years.

CC: You really came into limelight after the West Indies tour with India A [18 wickets]. It was a strong outfit consisting of Jimmy Adams, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Darren Ganga… at that time did you consider yourself as a potential Test player?

MK: No, I had never considered myself as a potential India player. When I started playing cricket I never thought I would ever play for India. It was always a hobby. I had been brought up on cricket stories: that’s all.

Actually, we had a big house in Madras. I was born bang opposite Chidambaram Stadium. I had lived there for the first six to seven years of my life and played cricket on the narrow aisle that led to the stadium.

From a very young age all I have been doing is just watch cricket. I had never, at any stage, thought that I will play for my country.

CC: Then the Test call-up happened. You bowled really well in the first innings [18-6-28-2], but in the second innings [Mark] Boucher took away…

MK: Oh, I don’t know why people say why Boucher took it away. They were chasing 164, and by the time we came on the seamers had already given away 40. Early in his innings, Boucher top-edged off me, and the man that was supposed to be at 45° was moved to 15°. The fielder was moved to stop easy runs from being scored, and the ball flew to exactly the same spot where he was earlier. Once that chance went amiss, South Africa took it away from us.

CC: You bowled quite well in the next Test too, bowling a marathon spell [50-11-123-3] but India conceded a big lead…

MK: Nicky Boje was sent in as night-watchman in the match; both he and Gary Kirsten were dropped off me at short-leg when they had scored nothing at all; they got a big partnership [added 161 for the second wicket]. Then I found Jacques Kallis’ edge, Nayan Mongia took the catch, but Russell Tiffin ruled him not out.

Now, if two different batsmen get dropped off your bowling, and a batsman of the quality of Kallis is given not out, your figures become completely different from what they should have been.

CC: It was roughly around this period that you had started bowling round the wicket to the left-handers. This is something that we had seldom seen in Indian left-arm spinners of the 1990s. What made you start bowling that?

MK: It was another thing that Bishan Bedi, being my mentor, had helped me with. There were other aspects as well. If you have noticed, I have seldom bowled with a point [for the left-hander] even on flat wickets. A ball only goes to point only if you bowl a bad ball. If somebody reverse-sweeps a good ball and gets a four it’s fine. Of course, you can’t take a point out for the right-hander because the ball naturally goes that way.

Likewise, I had always bowled to my strengths, and had tried to get the batsmen out instead of trying to save runs. This is also a reason for me often bowling round the wicket to left-hand batsmen. If you bowl over the wicket you’d almost never get an LBW: the umpire would almost always say that it has struck outside the off-stump or has been missing the leg-stump.

But if you come round the wicket you always give yourself a fair chance to get him out LBW. Not only that, the slip, the short-leg, they all come into play.

CC: How big a role did Anil Kumble use to play in the mentoring of young spinners like you?

MK: He was my first roommate. He is a man of few words, and believed a lot in leading by example. He has been a different bowler. He was not a man who would give you technical advice like how you should keep your arm while bowling; his bits of advice were always about how to attack a batsman, about finding his weaknesses…

CC: Then the Irani Trophy match happened. Talk us through that record spell at Wankhede [Kartik picked up 4 for 73 and 9 for 70 in the match; the second innings haul still remains an Irani Trophy record]. How big was that?

MK: We had a very strong side. There was [VVS] Laxman, [Sadagoppan] Ramesh, [SS] Das, Jacob Martin — I remember Virender Sehwag had to sit out for the match. I thought Ashish Nehra, Dodda Ganesh, and Laxmi Ratan Shukla would run away. The ball was seaming all over the place at Wankhede. And then I just came on and picked up 13 wickets on that track. And all that happened within two months after a funny fiasco at the NCA.

CC: Do tell us more about the National Cricket Academy (NCA) incident.

MK: I had broken my wrist on the first day at the NCA. I was struggling. Even at the Asia Cup I could not bowl much with that injury. Then Mr Hanumant Singh asked me to go back; he said “if I allow you to be here, people will think that I’m giving you preferential treatment.”

If I had indeed been chucked out, why would Harbhajan Singh and Nikhil Haldipur not get picked in the same Irani Trophy match that I was? It took Harbhajan some time to get out of that situation and to play any match. But the media clubbed me with the other two [Harbhajan and Haldipur] and claimed that all three of us were chucked out on disciplinary grounds.

CC: Once back you were under-bowled by Sourav Ganguly in the two Tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe where Sunil Joshi got a lot more overs. Your numbers under Ganguly were also significantly inferior to those under other captains. Do you really feel that Ganguly did not have enough faith in you?

MK: (smiles) You should ask Sourav. Look, there are really two ways to look at this: In those 2 Tests I hardly bowled. But in 2002, when we had the tri-series against Australia and New Zealand, I played ahead of Anil and Harbhajan. On the Australia tour I was flown in immediately after Harbhajan was injured and had landed just before the Adelaide Test. But I didn’t play the Adelaide Test match because Andrew Leipus felt i would be jetlagged.

CC: In that season’s Ranji Trophy final defeat against Baroda you lost despite a 151-run lead [Baroda 243 and 373, Railways 394 and 201]. How disappointing was that?

MK: Oh, it was a brilliant game. I had hardly played in that tournament and forced myself to play in the final despite back spasms. It was well-contested, we played really well, but unfortunately some incidents took the match away from us.

CC: Umpiring?

MK: Everybody saw that. It was live on TV. In the first innings I came out to bat when we didn’t even had a lead. I had a 113-run partnership with Parida. I got 79 and Parida scored 47, and we got a substantial lead. But in the second innings several bad decisions went against us.

CC: Were you charged up more than usual when you turned up against Baroda yet again in next season’s final?

MK: No, we just thought that God had given us a chance to rectify ourselves and we should grab the chance with both hands. And we did exactly that!

CC: You won by a huge margin. It was also Railways’ first Ranji Title…

MK: They were batting well [87 for 1 after Railways had scored 253]. Then Shreyas Khanolkar took an outstanding catch off my bowling to dismiss Nayan Mongia, and then they collapsed [for 167]. I was batting well before I was stumped off Atul Bedade, and then the bowlers did their job.

CC: You did a wonderful job in the ODI series against West Indies [was the most economic bowler of the series conceding 4.84 an over]. Almost every match saw scores in excess of 300 being scored, and all 7 West Indian batsmen [Carl Hooper, Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Wavell Hinds, Sarwan, Marlon Samuels, Ricardo Powell] had strike rates in excess of 80. How did you manage keep such a formidable line-up in check?

MK: I really don’t know how I did it. I had to bowl in the Powerplays and Gayle and Hinds were really going after our bowlers. The wickets were very flat. I just knew what I had to do and I did that.

CC: And then, after all that, even after that debacle in New Zealand, you were not considered for the World Cup squad…

MK: Well, when you do well, and the others haven’t done as well, you feel that you have a chance. The World Cup is everyone’s dream, but that didn’t happen…

CC: Then Railways made it to the final once again. There was an amazing contrast in the way the two semi-final-winning teams were treated: while Punjab were awarded 1.5 million rupees the Railways Coach Vinod Sharma’s salary was 11 months overdue. Did the victory improve this situation at all?

MK: At least now we get to fly from one place to another (smiles wryly). See, BCCI has never treated Railways or Services the way it has treated other state teams, so we have to run on our own budgets.

CC: You were away for the final, but more than made up for it in the Irani Trophy match that followed [96, 5 for 62]. It was Railways’ second Irani Trophy win in four seasons —no team other than Bombay has done it after a gap this small. How big was that?

MK: it was huge. The Rest of India side is hardly every beaten in the Irani Trophy, and it was a very a very strong Indian side. We all felt a great sense of achievement in achieving that after all this hard work.

CC: You also scored a 96 in that match…

MK: Yes, that is one regret that I have — not being able to score a First-Class hundred. I tried to hit Ramesh Powar for a six, but was caught by Ranadeb Bose.

CC: You were then recalled for the Nagpur Test at virtually the last moment. Against a rampant Australian batting line up that went for a kill on a green pitch you were once again the best bowler for the side [20-1-57-3 out of 398 and 23-8-47-2 out of 329 for 5 declared]. Once again you not only picked up wickets but had also managed to keep the batsmen in check.

MK: It was not only that; unlike the Sydney Test where we had scored over 700 and had a tight field, we had an in-and-out field here. Even if the ball found edges they would fall safe. It was very difficult bowling to them on that track.

Murali Kartik played for Middlesex from 2007-2009 © Getty Images
Murali Kartik played for Middlesex from 2007-2009 © Getty Images

CC: How did you manage to do this? How do you manage to do it against some of the best hitters of the sport? You had done it against West Indies two years back…

MK: I really don’t know. It just happened. (smiles) No, really, it just happened.

CC: On a turning Bombay track you were the best of the three Indian spinners that played…

[After India were bowled out for 104 on a pitch that turned square from Day One Kartik bowled splendidly with 4 for 44 to restrict Australia to a 99-run lead. Then Tendulkar and Laxman gave India a fighting target before Michael Clarke ran through the tail to finish with 6 for 9.

Chasing only 107 for victory Australia were bowled out for 93 by the Indian spinners. Though Kumble picked up 6 wickets in the Test and Harbhajan 5, it was Kartik with 7 for 76 who emerged as the best of the lot, winning the Man of the Match award.]

MK: Oh, the pitch was doing a lot of things in that match. It was turning, bouncing, and was even seaming a bit. Zaheer [Khan] got a couple of wickets as well. I just bowled on the spot and that did it all. Even in that Test, even after that Nagpur performance, I was told only half an hour before the Test that I was playing.

CC: … and yet you played in just one more Test…

MK: Yes, I was dropped the very next Test. I was brought back for one last time at Kanpur against South Africa on a flat track, but was dropped for the next Test at Eden Gardens where the ball turned square. I never played another Test.

CC: How did the Lancashire call happen? You have never played in England before.

MK: I always wanted to play in England: that was the one thing missing from my CV. I wanted to play County cricket. Even Mr Bedi emphasised on the importance of County cricket.

We were playing the tri-series in Zimbabwe [2005-06]. My Indian cell-phone was with my wife. There was a call from Mike Watkinson from Lancashire asking me whether I wanted to play for Lancashire. When I got to know this, I almost jumped up and agreed. I didn’t even ask how much they would pay me or anything.

They sent me the tickets and I took the flight from Harare to Johannesburg to London, and there was this limousine waiting for me outside the airport. I thought, “so this is how they do it in County cricket!” I reached my hotel in Chelmsford and the next day I got to talk to Mike Watkinson to decide on the terms.

CC: Your first Championship match was special…

MK: Yes. While we had the likes of Stuart Law, Jimmy Anderson, Andrew Symonds, Glen Chapple, Mal Loye, and Sajid Mahmood they [Essex] had Alastair Cook, Andy and Grant Flower, Ravi Bopara, Darren Gough, Danish Kaneria, Ronnie Irani, and Andre Adams in their side. Before that match they could not arrange for a County cap for me. Dominic Cork had to lend me his own County cap for the match.

I remember getting Andy Flower bowled in the first innings and getting him in the second innings as well. I was the first overseas player to take 10 wickets [5 for 93 and 5 for 75] on his Lancashire debut. So, yes, that was special.

CC: You had an excellent season for Lancashire [16 wickets at 16.25] and did consistently well in England. Even then you were not considered for the Tests or ODIs, and when India toured England in 2007 they picked [Piyush] Chawla and [Romesh] Powar as the two spinners. Why do you think that happened?

MK: Well, that has more or less been the story of my life. On several occasions I never got to know why I was dropped. From time to time these things kept happening and I had learnt to come to terms with it. These are things which you simply could not fight.

CC: Let us turn to that Australia ODI at Bombay. It was arguably the greatest all-round performance by an Indian in the history of ODIs. Talk us through that match.

[Australia were cruising along at 117 for 2 in 19.4 overs. Kartik then triggered a collapse and finished with figures 10-3-27-6 — still the best ODI bowling figures by any left-arm spinner. Australia collapsed to 193 in 41.3 overs.

Kartik’s job was far from over, though. He found himself out at the middle at 143 for 8 in 35.4 overs. He added 52 with Zaheer Khan for the ninth wicket to pull off a heist with 4 overs remaining in the match. It definitely qualifies as one of the greatest all-round performances in the history of ODIs.]

MK: Once again, I was not scheduled to play because of an injured thumb. Then I was twice on a hat-trick [Brad Hodge and Symonds in the 20th over and Brad Hogg and Brett Lee in the 32nd over; in the same over he also picked up Haddin]. Once again I just put the ball on the spot and the wickets kept coming.

CC: You also played a match-winning innings that day…

MK: Yes, it was one of days when possibly everything had to be possibly done by me (smiles). God gives you such opportunities. I edged one that was not given, then I nicked another and they didn’t catch it. After that there were no issues and Zaheer and I scored the remaining runs.

CC: Bombay seems to have an effect on you. Not only in Tests and ODIs, your greatest performances at all levels have mostly been in Bombay. What is it about the pitch that brings out the best in you?

MK: I guess some pitches work better for you than the others: they provide more bounce and suit your style more than any other pitch. I have also done very well in the Vidarbha Stadium. I have also enjoyed bowling at Lord’s, Old Trafford, Chelmsford, even the flat track in the small ground at Taunton for that matter. Then, The Oval…

CC: You were doing really well for Lancashire. Why did you move to Middlesex?

MK: See, at that time a side was allowed only two overseas players. The two overseas players for Lancashire were [Muttiah] Muralitharan and Nathan Astle, and I only got to play at most three months a season. I needed to Test myself for the full six months.

So once I got the Middlesex offer I went to Mike Watkinson and told him that I want to leave in order to play a full season. He asked me to go ahead.

CC: You were always devoted to Railways. I remember that you came back immediately after the Stanford Super Series [Kartik was the only Indian to play the tournament] to turn up for Railways in the 2008-09 season. What made you go on for Railways even after playing international cricket, in England, and in the IPL?

MK: I have always enjoyed playing for Railways. Not only that match, even after I came back from New Zealand in 2002-03 I went directly to play the Ranji Trophy match against Hyderabad. Laxman also came with me, and one match later, we were both headed off for West Indies to play for India A as the team left for the World Cup.

When Sri Lanka toured India in end-2005 I knew that India would play Anil and Harbhajan and I’d be dropped for the Ahmedabad Test. So I sought permission from Greg [Chappell], played a full Ranji Trophy match in Mumbai, was back by the fourth day of the Test!

CC: You played a crucial role in Middlesex’s victory in the England Twenty20 Cup. Yet they dropped you when they appointed Shaun Udal as captain citing the reason that they won’t need a second spinner at Lord’s. Were you taken aback?

MK: After having played for Middlesex for three years, their dynamics changed when they appointed Shaun Udal as captain. So I was told that my fourth year would not be possible despite having done well for them across all three formats, because only oney overseas player is allowed — and that couldn’t have been me. Also, apart from Lord’s, every time we played away at other venues all the opposition produced green seamers as they knew Middlesex had two spinners out of which one was their overseas player. So it caused problems with the balance. The choice was between the captain and the overseas player. There was no question of who had to be picked between the two. I then moved to Somerset.

CC: And you did well once again with Somerset. You have been one of the most economic bowlers in IPL to boot. Do you think you were still left out of the side, especially in the shorter versions?

MK: I did try my level-best, but I guess some things are not in your hands.

Murali Kartik during his Somerset days © Getty Images
Murali Kartik during his Somerset days © Getty Images

CC: It was like two different worlds: you were picking up wickets by the dozen in England, and yet in India everyone seemed to have forgotten you completely. It was like two different players with the same name. Why do you think you were left out despite all those wickets?

MK: Yes, I guess I suppose I never got any answer to my questions and I realised I cannot fight destiny.

CC: India were being trounced in England in 2011, and when Harbhajan was nowhere close to his best the selectors brought in [Amit] Mishra. There have been precedence like [Vinoo] Mankad in 1952 or Madan Lal in 1986 when a player playing in England had been roped in; however, that was not the case this time, despite the fact that you were bowling quite well in the Championship. Did you expect a call-up?

MK: The people you mentioned were playing League cricket. I guess doing well at County Cricket isn’t good enough (smiles). I guess I could rarely fathom why I was picked, dropped, or not picked. Commentators like Nasser Hussain had asked during the series why I was not even considered. Nobody answered.

CC: Playing for Surrey you Mankaded Alex Barrow last year giving rise to a lot of controversy. What had exactly happened?

MK: Barrow was standing outside the crease, and I had warned him twice. I don’t think it was unsporting at all. I mean, if anyone is unsporting is the batsman. If a bowler oversteps by a fraction he is penalised; on the other hand a batsman gets away when we know that that extra step might result in him from not getting run out.

CC: Did [Gareth] Batty try to recall Barrow?

MK: Oh, no, that’s another misconception. Batty asked me, “Did you warn him?”
I replied, “Yes, twice before I had delivered.”
He asked the umpire: “Did you hear him warn the batsman twice?”
The umpire said, “Yes.”
Batty then asked Barrow: “Did Kartik warn you twice?”
Barrow said: “Yes.”

CC: The Fake IPL Player…

MK: I know everyone thought it was me. Some people even thought it was a joint effort from Anand Vasu and me. My wife followed the blog regularly thought it could have been me. But she later realised it wasn’t me. [The Fake IPL player who wrote the blog was Anupam Mukerji, who later went public about his real identity]

CC: Er, what I wanted to ask was that the Fake IPL Player called you Style-bhai on his blog. Where did that come from?

MK: I have no idea. Maybe it was my shades… maybe this (points at the black-and-white Iskcon Temple beads on his throat)…

CC: What are your views on the current crop of left-arm spinners?

MK: Shakib [Al-Hasan] is very underrated. Not only does to have to curb the runs but he also needs to take wickets; he also has to take the extra responsibility as a batsman.

[Rangana] Herath is another one. He has been an understudy to Muralitharan, which has always helped. But now that he has the extra responsibility thrust upon him he has met the expectations.

CC: A message for the young spinners…?

MK: Self-belief. It’s all about self-belief. You need to believe in what you can do and work as hard as possible. The rest will follow.

CC: Thank you. It was nice talking to you.

MK: You’re welcome.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at He can be followed on Twitter at