His hundred needs to be a beginning, not an end


By the look of things Harbhajan's cricket has taken a giant leap forward. However, his attitude to the game and opponents and sometimes even colleagues lets him down. By Peter Roebuck.

Harbhajan Singh's first Test hundred and previous contributions confirm his reputation as a stout hearted cricketer. Without him a conservatively chosen Indian team lacking both of its emerging batsmen would have been beaten by an earnest minnow. He spared his side a heavy fall.

A flighty batsmen in his formative years, prone to foolish strokes but fearless as well, often a nuisance and rarely a match changer, Harbhajan has clearly matured. His grit and zeal have never been in doubt, Indeed they have sustained him through numerous scrapes. His game has risen. Now he needs to take the next step. It's time to become a cricketer not a cult

His skills are not in doubt. Over the years most Indian spinners have lacked resolution with the willow. Many belonged to the hit and hope brigade. The advent of the helmet changed everything. Now counterparts like Daniel Vettori and Graeme Swann have raised expectations. Finger spinners fighting for a place in the side are well advised to work on their batting. Runs have helped spin to survive the retirement of the great practitioners of the last twenty years.

Harbhajan and Vettori are the senor spinners in the game. Comparatively speaking Swann is a newcomer and it's too early to make any long term predictions about him. Suffice it to say he puts a lot of work on the ball and has the sort of cheeky chappie approach that often pays dividends.

However, Harbhajan is not yet a match for Vettori. The Kiwi is a man of high dignity and a leader of men. Despite numerous frustrations he has held New Zealand cricket tighter over the last few years. His integrity is valued as much as his cricket

Harbhajan remains a contentious and periodically irresponsible figure and it's high time that ended. He is a boy no longer. By no means was his conduct in the infamous SCG Test match beyond reproach. Readers will recall that the behaviour of the Australian captain and team was roundly condemned in this column. Those comments have stood the test of time.

However Harbhajan also behaved abominably. Nor does that conclusion depend on remarks allegedly made on the field. Indeed that fuss distracted attention from his other follies. At the time the sight of him running around the field and doing exercises after taking the wicket of the Australian captain caused amusement. In fact it was unsporting and insulting. That Anil Kumble did not rebuke his young ally is one of the few blots on his record.

Suppose Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed and the conqueror ran around Eden Gardens before putting on a gymnastic display in front of thousands of disappointed locals — might not that be regarded as rude? What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Harbhajan was a goose that day, and on other occasions besides. It might seem perverse to mention these matters at the very time his cricket has reached its zenith. Better, though, to chide a man when he is surfing a way of admiration than to join the mob kicking him on the ground.

By the look of things Harbhajan's cricket has taken a giant leap forward. However, his attitude to the game and opponents and sometimes even colleagues lets him down. He cannot be a, leader or a universally popular player until he realises that a man can be a fierce competitor and yet also humble and considerate. Before it is too late he ought to glance around the Indian dressing room where he will observe several players proving that very point. The hundred needs to be a beginning, not an end.