Harbhajan’s performance may not have been great but we cannot ignore the number of matches that he has won for India single handedly, says, Madan Lal, a winning member of the 1983 World cup team and a cricket expert. One look at his record speak volumes about the player, as he has played 98 Test matches for India taking 400 plus wickets, which is not an ordinary feat. But it is his record during the last three years that has come under the scanner, where he has a strike rate of 65.3 with the ball. Amit Mishra has a better Strike rate of 62.2. Harbhajan Singh’s strike rate between 1999 - 2011 was much better at 52.2.
Most of the players, after being dropped, fall back into the domestic circuit, in order to impress the selectors once again, like Harbhajan has done. Madan Lal told Merinews.com, “He has to focus in the domestic circuit as of now, so he will come back into form, after which the selectors can pick him”. But, if we look at his recent Ranji performances too it is not that promising as one would expect it to be. In the last two T2o game for Punjab, he only took a solitary wicket, and went wicket less in the recent Ranji game against Uttar Pradesh. Is Harbhajan past his prime?
If one analyses his bowling trajectory, he had great variety in his armory earlier, but with batsmen starting to pick his ‘doosra’ and top spinners, which was his major wicket taking deliveries, he has not been able to get wickets with ease. Along with the advent of the T20, his bowling has seen some major changes, especially; he has lost his flight, which troubled many a batsmen. He has started to bowl quicker, thus his role has taken a new form, which is to contain batsmen. But cricket fans around the world would like to see the aggressive Harbhajan and not the containing, defensive spinner.
Aakash Chopra, who has played alongside the spinner knows him well enough, and says that the bowler is sure to bounce back. “He has been going through a bad phase, which every player goes through. Harbhajan Singh has been under the influence of T20, hence he needs to reinvent himself, as India needs him with his experience”, Chopra told Merinews.com. Players such as A. Mishra, P .OJha, R. Ashwin, Rahul Sharma have been threatening the player's position in the recent past as they are performing in whatever formats of the game they bowl in. Aakash adds, “The competition between these spinners will help Indian cricket, so it is good for the game”.
Out of the 20 wickets that India took in the first Test match, both the spinners took more than 14 wickets in total during the game, which reflects the good combination that persists between the two. The left arm orthodox and the offie could be a great combination, if they play consistently. But Madan Lal thinks otherwise. “These bowlers have bowled well in domestic pitches, which assist spin bowling. Their true test lies, when they play abroad”. Lal says we need to be patient and wait and see what happens in the future and not jump the gun about a player's career who has earned respect from players all over the world through his sheer performance.
With Harbhajan Singh not selected for the second Test match too at Eden Gardens, his career is under a big threat from these spinners. If these spinners are consistent in the remaining Test matches too, it could make things difficult for Harbhajan, when the team for the Australian tour is announced. Hence, if the player is selected for the tour, it could be his last chance to prove himself. If not selected, his chapter with Indian cricket may have to be closed.