26 March 2008

Bhajji begins his eleventh year

Harbhajan Singh has the perfect opportunity to cement his spot as the second-choice spinner and heir apparent to Kumble's role as first choice. The venue is the Chepauk where he averages 23.31 from five matches including the phenomenal fifteen-wicket turn against the Aussies seven years ago. The opposition are the South Africans, traditionally reckoned as poor players of spin bowling.

He came into the attack with the opening partnership motoring along nicely and promised immediately with flight and bounce off the track. The doosra was kept aside for the special occasion - and McKenzie was its first victim. The turn-and-bounce accounted for Kallis, and it was good to see Harbhajan getting rewarded for flighting the ball.

In June 2007, I had lamented the tragedy (yes, J Rod, I like using "tragedy") of Bhajji, and the situation has not changed much. But for a sprinkling of good performances (the last time we hosted Sri Lanka for instance), his career has not lived up to the expectations of his incredible show in 2001. Bhajji's been getting a bit of flak of late (for close to three years actually), not least from bloggers who have beamoaned his lack of form and is always taking punches from Sanjay "elephant" Manjerekar. Nine months back, I said Chappell had some explaining to do, because the decline in Bhajji's fortunes coincided precisely with his reign. And everyone knows how much of a spinner's efficacy comes from a supportive managment. Also, there must have been the initial period of resignation after realizing that there was scant chance of him displacing Kumble as first choice spinner.

Enough water has flown under the bridge. And if the series in Australia proved anything, it was Bhajji's contribution to the side, outside of the bowling department. One desperately wanted him to be able to completely justify his spot in the team. Getting Ponting out a few times was not enough to address the claims of Murali Kartik - of whom I am a huge fan, and would have loved to see him in the team ahead of Bhajji - and Piyush Chawla.

I may be calling it a little too early, but despite a clear lack of rhythm in his bowling, he was in a mood to attack and get wickets that was quite heartening. I will wait for the series to get over before considering whether Kartik can replace him when India play at home or on spin-firendly venues.


Anonymous said...

Murali Kartick??? seriously?? Bhajji can't be for one minute threatened by the presence of Murali Kartick in the ranks.. maybe piyush chawla.. who is a genuine spinner.. Murali Katick is just a moron with beads..

John said...

He is just ahead of his time.