Friday, 2 December 2011

The worst kept secret: Murali Kartik signs

The signing of Murali Kartik, first mooted around the time of the CB40 final in September, possibly even before that, was duly announced on the Surrey website yesterday. The former Lancashire, Middlesex and Somerset left-armer will be available in all formats for most of the 2012 season (more of that later).

Adams has made a virtue of a "mystery" spinner, specifically one that turns the ball away from the right handed batsman. Kartik certainly fulfills the second of those requirements, I'm not sure he can be considered a 'mystery' though. His formidable county pedigree - 319 wickets and counting - coupled with his ability to hold the bat competently make him a solid signing.

Pragyan Ojha, Kartik's countryman and late-season hero in 2011, will be the hardest of acts to follow, Ojha's recent exploits (20 wickets at 22 apiece) in India's recent series against the West Indies ought to herald a lengthy run in the national side. However, Kartik has proven a matchwinner in the past, 2011 was no vintage year as he only played 8 Championship games, returning 26 wickets but 2010 was far better. In 11 matches for Somerset he took 45 wickets at less than 20 each, and bagged five 5-fors in the process.

Hopefully he can rediscover his best form, 591 First Class wickets doesn't happen by accident. His presence will be a positive thing for the development of fellow left-armer Zafar Ansari, and other young spinners like Spriegel and Freddie van den Bergh. Though with Gareth Batty also scrapping for a place, it will be interesting to see how Adams builds his teams. Presumably 2011's spinner-heavy limited overs sides will be replicated next year.

His precise availability is by no means certain and the announcement on the official site has undergone something of a refinement. From declaring that Kartik will be available for the pre-season preparation, and a quote from Chris Adams stating that he'll be available "for the entirety" of the 2011 season, there is now considerably less certainty. On his own Twitter feed he has said he'll join after the IPL (he played for Pune Warriors in 2011 and presumably will do so again next year) which ends on May 27th.

This is par for the course for any top-quality overseas spinner these days, but it does seem odd that the announcement should be unclear on that note. It remains to be seen whether a short-term replacement will be sought, but because of the record-breaking early start this year, it does mean we are potentially without an overseas player for seven Championship matches and three CB40 matches.

In short, Kartik's signing is very positive news. An attacking spinner, provided he can find his best form, is hugely valuable as we know only too well. Further action on the player signings front may well be very limited from now on, but 2012's squad is taking shape rapidly.