When Anil Kumble became captain of India, he had plenty to deal with. When he ceased to be India’s main spinner, it seemed he had handed the mantle over to Harbhajan Singh.
But the latter’s performance over the last few days — in a successful Test match — has raised a question: Where is Murali Kartik? The selectors, who have now included Chetnya Nanda and R Ashwin in the long-list of centrally contracted players, have a lot to answer for.
When Kumble was India's No. 1 spinner, Harbhajan played a sterling role in support. Why, even when Kumble was out of the reckoning through injury, Harbhajan delivered the goods. But now, when the onus is on him to show the way to less-experienced spinners like Amit Mishra, Harbhajan has been found wanting.
Pragyan Ojha has been in the squad but never seriously tried, save for the odd ODI match. Kartik has delivered the goods time and again, both for Middlesex, in the County Championship, and for Railways, in the Ranji Trophy. What's more, he has stood up when given a chance. Last year, when he was a contracted player, he was brought into the squad for the Mumbai Test against Australia and won the game with his left-arm spin. When he returned home to Delhi soon after, he was immediately recalled for the Twenty20 match where he performed creditably again.
For reasons best known to the selection committee, it did not pick him for one series, and was then on the verge of including him when he suffered an injury, which pushed him out of the scheme of things.
Selection committees have changed, captains have changed but each time Kartik has been at the wrong end of selection. Even given the fact that he is on the wrong side of 30, Kartik has a few strong seasons of cricket left in him. If the selectors have closed the door on him — and that will be a pity for he is still one of the best spinners around — then the least they can do is say as much.
Kartik deserves that much.