For Indian cricket fans who prefer to catch World Cup updates on the telly rather than on the internet, there exists one show that differentiates itself from the rest.
CNN-IBN’s Kings Of Cricket features Sir Vivian Richards, Imran Khan, Allan Border, Chris Cairns, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Abbas, Murali Kartik, Kirti Azad and Harsha Bhogle.
The term "Kings Of Cricket" is more than apt when applied to Richards, the original Khan, Allan Border and maybe even Anil Kumble. The former three are legends of the game and have played in and/or captained World Cup winning sides.
Anil Kumble’s monumental haul of wickets makes him regent among Indian bowlers.
Zaheer Abbas is the Brown Bradman. Kirti Azad was a member of India’s 1983 World Cup winning squad.
Chris Cairns was one of the finest all-rounders in the world—New Zealand’s best after Sir Richard Hadlee.
Harsha Bhogle is the voice of Indian cricket.
Who, then, is Murali Kartik?
The balding, straggly bearded 34-year-old is arguably the finest left arm spinner of his generation—the best left arm orthodox bowler in the country bar none.
Unfortunately, he has always been the bridesmaid, never the bride—seldom selected ahead of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.
Despite his excellent credentials and his performances with the ball whenever called upon, the left-arm bowler finds himself in the wilderness. He never enjoyed the confidence of the selectors or his skippers.
Anil Kumble’s retirement should have seen him make the side partnering Bhajji, but Indian selectors in their profound wisdom saw it fit to blood younger brood.
In a World Cup where spin plays a crucial role and where India’s main trundlers have looked out of sorts, Kartik's wiles could have reassured Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
When Yuvraj Singh with his innocuous deliveries is the best bowler in the side, one shudders to think what damage Kartik—with all his years of experience in first class and county cricket—could have wreaked on opposing sides.
Unfortunately, the Railways player turned out in just eight tests for the country.
Twenty-four wickets at 34.16—while not impressive— do not tell the whole story. He was often called to do duty at short notice filling in either for Kumble or Bhajji. He was then discarded until needed again.
His best Test bowling figures are 4-44.
Would Murali have made a difference?
In ODIs, his strike rate is 43.56 for 37 wickets in 37 games.His best bowling figures: 6-27 against Australia for which he earned the man-of-the-match award.
It is in first class cricket that he shone best and brightest, bagging 560 wickets at 28.51. He plied his trade well, persevering in the search for excellence.
If Murali was cold-shouldered by Indian selectors, he had no problems being recognised by English county sides—Lancashire, Middlesex and Somerset.
Murali turned out for Lancashire in 2005-06, Middlesex in 2007-09 and presently represents Somerset.
Imran Khan lamented that Pakistan’s loss was South Africa’s gain when asked how Pakistan could have overlooked Imran Tahir.
No such luck for Murali Kartik. He remains the bridesmaid, waiting patiently for the bride’s bouquet to fall his way.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
(First published at http://maketimeforsports.com)