Saqlain Mushtaq feels sad about the manner in which Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has been sidelined by the team management.
While he terms Ravichandran Ashwin as a “world class bowler”, he feels that Harbhajan not getting a single start during the last seven T20 internationals is “not doing the bowler’s confidence any good”.
“I am afraid that Indian cricket board and team management’s treatment to Harbhajan has not been great. He was a world class bowler and is still a world class bowler. The emergence of Ashwin doesn’t mean that you drop Harbhajan or put him under tremendous pressure,” said Saqlain.
The 39-year-old Saqlain, who has 208 Test and 288 ODI wickets, said dropping a top grade performer according to convenience is not the best example to set.
“Look from the time he got dropped (in 2011), he has made three comebacks which meant that when you needed him, you picked him and when the need was over, you dumped him. So the pressure that you have created on him, you have already negated his past achievements.
“But what logically should have been done is that when his graph was going down, one should have given him a short break and brought him back. He should have been the first choice spinner supported by Ashwin. Instead you put self doubts in him and now made him the third or fourth choice spinner in the side,” Saqlain did not mince words while explaining.
He feels when a player is making comeback, he is shaky and one needs to give him the confidence that he would be back to his best.
“In my 10 years for Pakistan, I have seen legends being dropped due to form or injury and after they came back, in first 2 or 3 matches, their confidence looked to have been shaken. But after five or six matches, their rhythm came back.
“Let me be very clear, even if Bhajji has 100 per cent potential, he will not be able to perform because you people have made him feel like a No 4. At the end, players are only human with same kind of feelings and emotions. A good performance is emotion driven. If you are in a good space mentally, your graph will go up and vice versa,” Saqlain said.
The former Pakistan off-spinner lauded Ashwin, who has been India’s top-wicket taker in Indian conditions. Saqlain, in fact, said Ashwin is way ahead of Australia’s Nathan Lyon and Moeen Ali of England.
“Nathan Lyon and Moeen Ali still need to prove themselves but Ashwin is a world class bowler and is bowling superbly at the moment. He has good attitude and I wish him all the best.
Ashwin has proved himself at Test level but the other two still need to do a bit more,” he said.
Saqlain also defended the Tamil Nadu tweaker’s poor performance outside the sub-continent.
“Just like batsmen when they go out of the sub-continent, they face problems, similarly spinners also face their share of problems. Ashwin has skills. He has troubled batsmen in the sub-continent and he is capable of doing that outside as well.
One needs to accept that in places like England and Australia, the performance graph will go down a bit.
“In Australia, you will play with three pacers and a specialist spinner, in India it will be opposite. The surface, the condition, the ball (SG in India, dukes in England and kookaburra in Australia) — everything changes. So if Ashwin gets five-for in India, he will perhaps get three in Australia. A captain’s plan for spinners in Australia is completely different unless there is some grip in the pitch.
“Spinner is your fourth option and accordingly will bowl less number of overs,” he said.