They thought I had no future

Published: Saturday, February 26, 2000, 18:23 [IST]
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The Indian Cricket Team, for the first Test match against South Africa at Mumbai, has a new left arm spinner in the form of Murali Karthik. Murali is a familiar figure on the domestic circuit and has been performing consistently for his Ranji Trophy team, the Railways and the Central Zone. He has also been an integral part of the India A' team for some time now. This 23 year old left-arm spinner is spoken of very highly by many former cricketers, including "the Sardar of Spin", Bishen Singh Bedi. The confident and jovial young man spoke to S Kishore in an exclusive interview, on the eve of the Test match. Here are some excerpts of the interview.

On his elevation to the national team.
I have been expecting it for the last couple of years. But when I heard my name, it did come as a pleasant surprise.

On his systematic climb up the ladder.
I started playing cricket, serious cricket that is, when I was in the eighth standard. I joined a camp under M K Iqbal and that was the time, when I started off. Then, I moved over to Delhi after playing with the U-13, U-15 and for all those South Zone junior tournaments for Tamil Nadu. It happened because my father who is a bank employee was transferred to Delhi. The shift was beneficial because there I locked horns or rather met people like Bishen Singh Bedi and Maninder Singh who have taught me what I am right now.

On how he took to left-arm spin.
I was not a left-arm spinner to begin with. I was, what you call, a slow trundler, very slow, not very fast, in fact, very very slow and so everyone thought that I didn't have a future as a left-arm fast bowler. I was very diminutive in stature and I didn't have the height or the physique to bowl fast. It was Bedi and Maninder who told me to switch to left-arm spin, which I did. Anyway, mind you, the ball never turned (says it with a wry smile). So my move to Delhi was beneficial. Then, I started playing for the Under-16 team and got into the Ranji side for Delhi, although, I didn't get a place in the Under-19 side. After that I moved over to the Railways because Maninder Singh was still playing for Delhi and he didn't know how long he would play. So he wanted me to play for the Railways, where I stood a better chance and I have been playing for them for the last 5 years. The Railways have always been very supportive of us. Later, I went on to represent Central Zone, the India Under-19 and the India A' sides.

Your best performance till date.
(Laughs) I cannot think of any. (Then on a slightly serious note) I had a good stint in the West Indies, where I took 14 wickets in two unofficial Tests'. I had a good Ranji season and a good Duleep Trophy season and I have also done well in the side games against visiting teams. I cannot think of any particular dream spell, as such.

On the greatest influence of his career
When I started my cricket, I thought I would model myself on Sir Garfield Sobers because I was a medium pacer to start with, who also used to bowl spin occasionally. But, then when I met these people (Bedi and Maninder), they were my heroes and so there it ends. I have been with them for the past eight years and everything has been special. Bedi has always been there, whenever I needed his help. In fact, he is here in Mumbai, right now.

On how he fancies himself as a batsman.
I know I can bat well. I will try my level best. But it is a question of getting those runs; (with a wry smile again) not about batting well, but getting the runs in match situations. God willing, I should do well.

On the format of the game that he prefers.
I am comfortable playing both versions of the game, the shorter as well as the longer one. But, to start with, I feel that it is better to begin with the longer version.

Copyright S Kishore

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