Archive for the ‘Harbhajan Singh’ Tag

Making a case for Harbhajan Singh.

Recent ouster of India from the T20 World cup has driven the trigger-happy bunch of people and TV journalists in frenzy. The News media went overboard in hurry to find every possible scapegoat in the Indian side and slaughter it. In this madness, even when the popular ones like MS Dhoni got caught in the fire, how can we expect the bad boy of Indian cricket to be spared? A lot of criticism has been directed towards Harbhajan Singh for giving away 10 wides in the crucial match against England .

Now, why did Harbhajan need to bowl those death overs? It was because Indian pacers could not do it. Bhajji has done this constantly and with good results. Apart from those 5 wides in the last over (Which was partly Yuvraj’s fault as well – It should have been just two) he did bowl an excellent spell. His Economy rate along with Pragyan Ojha’s was better than all other Indian bowlers in the tournament. Bhajji bowled excellent tight spells in T20 WC 2007 as well except that one over in finals where a well set Misbah took on him. While some people criticized him for bowling flat and not looking for wickets, it was the role he was given to. When other bowlers could not contain the flow of runs, the task was given to Bhajji. When there is pressure from one end, the other end can be attacked you can not do it when Ishant Sharma is leaking runs from the other end.

A lot of people have questioned his place in the current test side accusing him of bowling flat, not turning the ball enough, not caring enough and his attitude in general.

I disagree to the general notion that he balls flat all the time, on the spinning tracks, I have not seen any other spinner apart from Kumble generating same amount of bounce as Bhajji does. In the last series against Aussies, he bowled with spin and bounce and his Doosra really baffled likes of Michael Hussey. He only bowls flat and straight when he is not getting any assistance from the pitch. A big turn has never been essential in getting wickets – Kumble’s 600+ wickets are perfect examples of that. People who compare him with yester year’s great spinners like Bedi and Prasanna forget that things were not that batsman friendly back then. If we put things into context his achievements are only second to Kumble’s. His batting has improved a great deal in last 2-3 years and I can count at least 3 match saving/winning cameos from him when top order crumbled. He is a gutsy batsman and is not afraid of any bowler at the crease.

In limited overs cricket, he has an excellent economy rate of 4.23 in ODIs and 6.55 in T20s. Even Kumble had the economy rate of 4.30 in ODIs. Compare this with India ’s main pacer Zaheer’s 4.86 and 7.23 respectively. To add to that, he is an excellent fielder in the outfield and has one of the best throwing arms in the squad. Do you remember him dropping one at the ropes? I surely don’t. He is a naturally aggressive guy who does not give up easily.

The problem is that Bhajji’s aggression is mostly driven by emotions rather than logic. This aggression which turns him into a fighting cricketer, has landed him in trouble over the years. This emotionally driven aggression is the reason he will be never trusted with any responsible position within the Indian team. He has been part of some ugly incidents like ‘slapgate’ episode during IPL season 1 and the racial abuse allegations by the Australian team. Now we all know what Sreesanth can do to you. The guy has a knack of rubbing people in the wrong way – mostly at the wrong times. I still remember him sledging Hayden in IPL2 after being hit for 20 odd runs in an over. Bhajji has always been at the loggerheads with the Aussies. Australians learnt years ago that he was not one of the nice quiet Indian boys they were accustomed to in when he pissed off Ricky Ponting after getting him out in his early days. (Don’t remember the year exactly but Ricky got angry and ambushed Bhajji with bat in hand – I believe it was in Sharjah – any pointers will be appreciated).

Bhajji has played a significant role in the Indian team’s steady rise in the decade, both in LOIs and Tests and he will continue to do so as long as he plays. He will, in my mind remain the perfect example of the revamp Indian cricket and cricketers went through starting from late 90s and continuing in this decade – Gutsy, and motivated with a belief that they can win no matter what.