The ISKCON beads wrapped prominently around the neck, the head held high, Murali Kartik always comes across as a confident cricketer. The pain of not making it back to the India team remains, but the left-arm spinner is doing his reputation no harm by doing well in IPL-III.
Kartik is among the most economical bowlers this season, varying his length, line, pace, flight and spin with good effect and according to him, it's a mind game all through. "Every ball is a new one and you have to keep thinking on your feet," Kartik told HT about bowling as a spinner in T20 games."
"It's like amateur golf. You may get an even-par round on a par-five hole and end up hitting the next one in someone else's fairway. There is little room to be satisfied with what you have done in the past because in the next game you can go for plenty.”
For him, it's a question of minimising damage. “It's a damage control game for us. How you do it is up to you, especially in grounds with 65-yard boundaries, which means it's not an even contest. You have to know what to bowl, when and to whom. Of course, you have to have the skills and execute them properly.”
Kartik has done just that. Whether it's bowling one that leaves the left-handed Adam Gilchrist or allowing minimal width, he has done a fantastic job as far as containment is concerned, which is reflected in his figures (see box). “I think about the batting line-up before every game…About what they have done to me in the past and what I have done to them. It's a mind game all the way.”
It's not about being defensive all the time and Kartik has reason to say so because he has forced batsmen into defensive shots a few times this season. “There are times when you can attack a batsman. Obviously, it won't be a priority when they are without loss after six overs. But if they lose wickets, you can be aggressive.”
Despite his efforts, Kartik remains a player whose achievements go unnoticed. “I'm aware of it, but as long as people in the circuit know what I'm capable of, it doesn't hurt me.” The non-conformist in him was out for a second before he dashed off to take a plunge in the hotel swimming pool.