Harbhajan Singh says Siraj should play WTC final against New Zealand

Mohammed Siraj's "remarkable improvement" should be rewarded with a place in the playing XI for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, says India spinner, Harbhajan Singh.

Mohammed Siraj was one of the key architects of India's 2-1 Test series win in Australia earlier this year.   -  AP

Mohammed Siraj's "remarkable improvement" should be rewarded with a place in the playing XI for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, says India spinner, Harbhajan Singh.

Asked about his preferred team combination for the final, Harbhajan said, "If I was the captain, I would go with three pure fast bowlers. In that case, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami pick themselves. In this final, I would like to go with Mohammed Siraj ahead of Ishant Sharma.

"Ishant is a brilliant bowler, but for this game, my choice is Siraj, who has shown remarkable improvement in the last two years."

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"You have to look at the present scenario. Siraj's form, pace and confidence make him a better choice for this final match. The kind of form he is in the last six months, he looks like a bowler who is hungry for his chances. Ishant has gone through some injuries of late but has been a great servant of Indian cricket no doubt," the off-spinner said.

"If you leave some grass on the surface, Siraj with his pace will be lethal. Trust me, New Zealand batters won't find him easy as he not only hits the deck but also gets to move the ball off the pitch at a brisk pace. He can create awkward angles for batsmen," India's third-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket observed.

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Twin spin attack

The cold conditions in Southampton might not be too conducive for spinners, with the pitch expected to remain solid throughout the Test. But Harbhajan feels that two spinners must feature in a five-man attack, especially with no Hardik Pandya around. 

"You play two spinners when the climate is on the hotter side. The cracks will appear, and they will both be effective. If it remains on the cooler side, the pitch, which comprises mainly black soil, won't break.

"They can take a final call factoring in the weather just before the game and also taking the five-day forecast into the account. I don't see a case for four pacers with no Hardik Pandya in the set-up. You can only play four pacers if the pitch can't be distinguished from the outfield," he explained.

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The veteran of 103 Tests believes that Ravindra Jadeja's all-round ability makes him an automatic choice for number seven.

"If you look at Jaddu's batting performances in England, it's as good as anyone. He has multiple half-centuries, and he is a top-class bowling operator. The moment you don't have Hardik to lend balance, Jaddu automatically fits," he said.

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