Saturday, June 06, 2015

Harbhajan Singh in the Test squad - step in the right direction?

Age is just another number. But statistics have a different say to this. Statistics reveal that the more you age, less is your capability to be on top of your game vis-à-vis similar players across the sporting spectrum. What statistics don’t know are the players who are known by the following names – Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Xavi, Pirlo (all Football players), Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso (both F1 drivers), Pravin Tambe, Brad Hodge (both Cricketers). These players have defied age and all of them still show the same zeal and determination to succeed. Can we now add Harbhajan Singh to this list too? Time will tell.

I must admit, Harbhajan Singh’s name in the test squad to tour Bangladesh came as a surprise – a pleasant one, rather than a shock. I feel Harbhajan Singh can still give a significant contribution to the Indian national team. But that’s just a fan talking who has seen some phenomenal bowling and batting performances from the “turbanator”. Yes, no one can rest on their past laurels and Harbhajan himself knows it better than anyone else considering that he has last played a test match against Australia in March 2013. And that was the last time he was involved in any international game. He was 32 then. Now he’s a couple of months shy of 35.

So, do you think selectors have made a mistake / is this a moment of genius / case of no other options?
Harbhajan Singh Indian Team Test Squad for Bangladesh image

Arguments supporting Harbhajan Singh’s inclusion – 
  • Experience – An advantage of being a senior player in the team is the experience you bring to the table. Harbhajan has played test matches in different countries with different playing conditions. He knows how to handle pressure in tough situations. His presence in the dressing room / ground (provided he is selected in the playing XI) will be a big plus for team India. 
  • Form and dedication – Domestic test form aside, he has been one of the best performers in the IPL who never got an opportunity to play for the national side in the past 2 years. He is contributing positively to his IPL team and has been a critical cog in the wheel in the domestic T20 tournament. This leads me to believe he has not lost his desire to perform whenever given a chance. 
  • Opposition – Bangladesh team is an in-form team at the moment. They performed well in the recently concluded World Cup 2015. They eventually lost out to India in the quarter-finals and regrettably made a big issue out of it. Then they went on to defeat Pakistan in the ODI and T20 matches. One fact that tilted the favor towards an off-spinner as against opting for a leggie is that they will have as much as 6 left handers in their batting order. This skewed information makes it imperative to have off-spinners in your team to gain a tactical advantage. Enter the most successful non-retired off spinner in India.
  • If not Harbhajan, who else? – This is the Elephant in the room – a much bigger concern which the selectors need to address. R Ashwin is our #1 off-spinner. I don’t think we have anyone ‘ready’ who can complement / replace him in case of an injury. We have many off-spinners in the domestic arena but apparently no one is ready make the jump, or so the selectors think. The best off-spinner last season in Ranji Trophy was Swarupam Purkayastha, who played only 7 matches for Assam claiming 36 wickets at an average of 17.52. One to watch out for, I must add. But don’t you think he needs to get more experience under his belt in the domestic circuit to make the cut?

Arguments against Harbhajan Singh’s inclusion – 
  • Age – Age brings in experience to the team, but it also brings in “relatively” more inertia. Theory has it that with age, people become less agile and will probably be able to commit less compared to his younger self. These are theories with proven examples across the sporting spectrum. There are some who defied this logic, but there are only a handful of them. Harbhajan Singh is yet to prove he belongs to that league, although he has an opportunity now.
  • Test matches are different compared to T20 matches – Harbhajan has performed admirably better in the shortest format of the game (IPL) He has picked up wickets at regular intervals and played a significant part for his team – Mumbai Indians. But the only thing common between test match and a T20 match is that both need a bat and ball to play. Everything else is different. The temperament needed, line and length of bowlers, approach of batsmen, field placements, duration etc. 
  • Bangladesh series provides an ideal opportunity to try a youngster – This is one of the major reasons why Harbhajan should not have been selected. A series against Bangladesh (with all due respects) should be an ideal opportunity to include a promising youngster to be part of the team. He may not play in a match, but he will stand to gain vital experience just by being with the national squad. Is that an opportunity loss?

I believe if you want to know how important a player is to your team, ask the opposition. Bangladesh will now be a little concerned with Harbhajan Singh in the Indian squad. His repertoire will come in handy for Indian team and will always be a constant threat to the Bangaldeshi batsmen. If Harbhajan returns to his wily ‘young’ self, expect more wickets to flow for the ‘turbanotor’. Harbhajan, on his part, will be aware that this is his opportunity to prolong his test career. If he fails, this could well be his swansong series.

Now that I think of it, will this be his swansong series when he finally gets an opportunity to bid test cricket good-bye! There’s no apparent reason for me to believe why it cannot happen.


  1. Bhajji has deserved a place in the squad since long, like many other players... The problem is that the current Indian squad is so talented and balanced that those with experience and somewhat equal talent tend to miss out... something like what Aussie cricket has been experiencing for years...

    Am glad to see Bhajji back... wish him the best for his performance against Bangladesh today...

    1. Thankfully, our bench strength is strong. And with Rahul Dravid as the U-19 and 'A' team coach, we can only get better! The problem however is lack of quality offspinners in the setup. Hence bhajji. Hope he makes it count this time too..


All yours..

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