Dropping Bhajji was a tactical move, says Jayawardene

Harbhajan Singh has been MI’s leading wicket-taker after Lasith Malinga (143 scalps). But he was not part of the playing XI for Mumbai’s first match against Rising Pune Supergiant.

Harbhajan Singh is likely to be part of the playing XI for Mumbai Indians’ upcoming match against Kolkata Knight Riders.   -  Vivek Bendre

Mumbai Indians head coach Mahela Jayawardene insisted that the off spinner Harbhajan Singh was not “dropped” for the IPL match against Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) at the MCA International Cricket Stadium at Gahunje on Thursday. The two-time champion lost the match by seven wickets and made a disappointing start to its campaign.

Harbhajan Singh has been MI’s leading wicket-taker after Lasith Malinga (143 scalps). He has featured in 125 of the 140 matches MI has played in the IPL, taken 119 wickets, and figured in 71 of the 80 wins. But the former Sri Lankan captain, who has replaced Ricky Ponting, said: “Bhajji wasn’t dropped. It was just a question of combination. Tactically, we decided that in the first game, given the opposition, that’s the way we wanted to go. It was as simple as that. We have a quality group of players and we need to be smart about how we use them against opposition.

“I thought we played a very good game...But definitely, Bhajji was not dropped in the way that you want me to say it. Just that it was a tactical decision.’’

When asked if the tactics proved wrong, Jayawardene clarified: “Not really. When you look at their (RPS) line-up, they had eight right-handers in the top 10 except for Ben Stokes. We still had Nitesh (Rana) in our line-up who could bowl. Given that it was a green wicket and that they had two leg-spinners — one of whom went for runs and the other (Imran Tahir) took wickets off pretty straight balls — I think we were in the game. Tactically, we got it right. We thought 184 was quite a high score on that venue. They batted really well to get that. We made a couple of mistakes on the field; Steve Smith was dropped when he was on 36. So that’s probably where things didn’t go our way. But I think we played the game pretty much the way we wanted. Just couldn’t get over the line.’’

Harbhajan was at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday evening to prepare for MI’s game against Kolkata Knight Riders and he should be in the playing XI. Malinga and Asela Gunaratne have joined the team, giving MI more options for team selection.