A point to prove

PTI

The series against Australia will be a test of sorts for Harbhajan Singh (in pic) as he has never relished the role of a strike bowler, if one goes by the numbers alone. This may be his best chance to set the record straight.

The Indian selection committee has pinned its faith on spinners to do the job against Australia, and it remains to be seen if it is misplaced. The series against England did not show the efficacy of Indian spinners in good light, but the issue for the Indian selectors is that the fast bowling options are limited due to a long injury list. Besides, the Indian skipper Dhoni insists on playing on turning tracks on Indian soil, which does put pressure on the selectors to pick a side that will be in sync with the team management’s plans.

However, the Indian spinners will have to fare better than they did against England, but for them to be efficient they need runs on the board as well. The return of Harbhajan against his favourite opponent will add the extra bit of spice but otherwise the recent form of the other spinners will create a certain level of anxiety in Dhoni’s mindset.

The spin duo of Ojha and Ashwin have done the job in patches and have admirable numbers against their names, but adapting from the shorter version to the longer version has caused them some problems.

Ashwin has somehow not been penetrative enough when the opposition batsmen have displayed adequate technique and patience. On the other hand, Ojha is not consistent enough for a left-arm spinner even though he picks up a five-wicket haul now and then. This has, perhaps, facilitated the return of Harbhajan and whether he can resurrect his career will be the main story of the upcoming Test series against Australia.

The combative ‘Turbanator’ will be upbeat as he has enjoyed a lot of success against the Aussies and the most important thing is that he has bowled a lot of overs in domestic cricket. By his own admission, he fancies his chances of doing well against an apparently inexperienced Australian batting line-up that comprises a lot of left-handers.

I saw him bowl on a turner in Rajkot against Saurashtra in the Ranji quarter-finals and it was interesting to see him operate. He was guilty of bowling quicker through the air and also resorting to bowling the wrong line (leg stump to right-handers) in the first innings which made him look very ordinary. But whenever he bowled slower through the air and bowled to an off stump line he looked a different bowler altogether. He looked good in the Irani Cup, but the pressures and demands of international cricket are different. He will be required to lead the charge due to his experience and it will be a pity if he decides to ride piggyback on the young duo of Ashwin and Ojha. I say this because he can get under the skin of the Aussies better than the other two on any given day.

The Aussies will look to test his nerves by going after him with the slog sweep they play with verve. This may well be to Harbhajan’s advantage as it would be to Ashwin’s, as the ploy can backfire on the low bounce tracks in India.

The disbanded ‘doosra’ has severely affected the striking ability of the ‘Turbanator’, which means that he has to rely on subtlety in flight, failing which he will be too predictable. The series against Australia will not only be a platform for the resurrection of Team India but also for one of India’s leading wicket-takers. To what extent Harbhajan and the others in unison deliver when it matters should dictate the outcome of the series.

One thing is for sure, it will be a real test of sorts for the ‘Turbanator’ as he has never relished the role of a strike bowler if one goes by the numbers alone. There again, the series against Australia may be the best chance to set the record straight in this regard as well.