Kartik Murali grew up imitating Gary Sobers. “My father always spoke of Sir Garfield. For him he was the ultimate cricketer,” remembers Kartik.
Such was the Sobers influence that he would bowl seam, dart the ball in, and bat as well. An `all-rounder’ to fear in neighbourhood cricket.
Many years later when cricket took Kartik to the West Indies in 1999 as part of the India `A’ team, the spinner had just one man to look forward to meeting – Sobers.
“We landed in Port of Spain and I thought wow I have reached paradise of cricket where the God of cricket lived. Sadly I couldn't meet him but seeing the modest cricket facilities on view my respect for West Indies grew manifold. So many greats came out of those islands without the benefits of the top quality facilities that one came across in England and Australia.”
Kartik did meet Sobers when he returned for a series with the India team in 2002. “I just stood watching him.
In fact, I had goosebumps as he stood there in the gathering at the Indian High Commission. I walked up to him and introduced myself. I can’t recall the brief conversation but it was a lifetime dream fulfilled.”
Kartik made seven more trips to the West Indies the following years and built up lasting friendships with many.
Here he picks five of his favourites for Sportstar.
Sir Vivian Richards: Met him first on the 2002 tour at Antigua. He was one of the commentators. Later, he came to India as a selector of the team and then as a commentator. It was in 2011, when we worked together for the World Cup in India, that we came to have daily interactions. I guess he took a liking to me because I played golf and was also having a stint with Somerset.
I have not seen a man with the aura that Sir Viv has. Awesome. He has a towering presence that leaves you in a trance. He is also so humble, always appreciative of others. He is a wonderful golfer and at 67 can really crunch the ball. A fantastic raconteur. Proud to say I know him.
Colin Croft: Hard to believe he was a mean fast bowler. I have heard tales of batsmen trembling facing Croft when he was on fire. I had the fortune of meeting him in Miami where India was playing two one-day internationals. He was there as a radio commentator and we ran into each other during a break.
I was floored when he said, “Do you mind posing with me for an instagram photo?” Oh my God! How does one believe that this giant was a fearsome fast bowler.
Here he was, so soft, with a smiling face. One of my early heroes. I pinched myself. What an experience it was. The menacing Croft, also a pilot, requesting for a photo. Thank God I never had to face him on the field. But thank God I met this wonderfully talented man – fast bowler, pilot, commentator.
Michael Holding: What a man! It was always a dream to meet him. It happened during the 2002 tour to the West Indies. He liked my bowling and always had nice things to say about me. Learned so much from him. I always looked forward to listening to his commentary.
He believed in shooting straight. It was nirvana when I shared the mike with him in Cuttack in 2014. I felt blessed to be paired with one of the greatest fast bowler and a commentator of immense class. Feel privileged to have known him. Cricket commentary is not going to be the same now that he has decided to quit.
Chris Gayle: Universal Boss. Truly the right claimant. He was an opponent in 1999 and is a dear friend now. We hit it off from the first time we faced each other in the `A’ series in the West Indies. Towards the end of that tour he gifted me two personal hats (I have preserved them). He was actually far more expressive in his early days of international cricket.
I have had his wicket a few times but no one would like to bowl to this murderer of the ball. At KKR and RCB nets I would insist he works on his defence to take his mind off slaughtering us. Once at Benguluru, he went after me and (Muttiah) Muralitharan in the nets, with the ball landing on the roof of the stadium so many times. I suspect one of them went all the way to Cubbon Park.
When you bowl to Gayle, there is no follow-through. You just save yourself. He is younger to me and calls me “yuungster.” A great guy to be friend with.
Ian Bishop: A gentle giant. A bowler with searing pace, I loved when we interacted as commentators. He is a very simple man. Not gregarious as many from the West Indies.
He is studious, religious, does his homework well, constantly reading about the players, staying updated.
He is watching matches even when not part of the commentary panel. He has been a big support for me with his regular feedbacks, One of the best commentators in the circuit.
Latest on Sportstar
- Singapore Open 2023: Sindhu, Prannoy exit in first round; Srikanth, Arjun-Dhruv duo enter second round
- Women’s Junior Asia Cup 2023: India secures 2-2 draw against Korea
- Bucks announce Griffin as head coach
- WTC Final 2023: Boland to play against India, confirms captain Cummins
- NBA Finals 2023: Jokic’s 40-point jinx lives on; Nuggets handed home loss by Heat