New Delhi, July 13 : Putting behind the disappointment of the ninth-place finish in the…
It is rare to find quality off-spinners today. Having more than one in a team is a luxury. But India will have the luxury of playing two — Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin — in the one-off Test against Bangladesh starting on Wednesday.
The battle between the two teams looks less significant considering it is a one-off Test and India will start favourites since they are playing their full-strength team against the minnows.
However, the battle that will grab the attention will be the contest between comeback man and India’s third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket – Harbhajan – and the current favourite Ashwin.
There are not many instances where India have fielded two off-spinners in the XI except when Erapalli Prasanna and S Venkataraghavan played together in the era of the famous spin-quartet that also included left-arm spinner Bishan Singh Bedi and wrist spinner BS Chandrasekhar in 1960s and 70s.
The last instance of two off-spinners doing duty together for India was in 2012-13 when Harbhajan and Ashwin played three Tests together (1 vs England & 2 vs Australia) before the Tamil Nadu offie overtook the fading Bhajji to become India’s No. 1 spinner. Ashwin had scalped 20 wickets in three games while the Punjab bowler managed just seven.
For Harbhajan, this Test is more than just a do-or die. He has been selected on the basis of his form in the Indian Premier League where he did reasonably well for Mumbai Indians and not Ranji Trophy, where he played just three games and returned with six wickets. Nothing less than a five-wicket haul here will be expected from the comeback man.
Harbhajan’s return, however, will put Ashwin under some pressure. Ashwin has not been that effective overseas as he is at home.
Former India off-spinner Ramesh Powar termed it as an “interesting contest”. “Both are different bowlers. Ashwin is a classical bowler who has lot of variations and has the ability to deceive the batsman. He is also currently doing very well. Harbhajan, on the other hand, is making a comeback after a long lay off. He will be definitely under pressure. The kind of form he was in T20s, where he was bowling well, I think the competition will be very healthy and good for the team,” he said.
Powar added: “Harbhajan relies a lot on bounce and turn while Ashwin will be at the advantageous position since he is in good form and will be bowling with the Kookaburra ball. The wickets will be almost similar to the ones at home.”
Powar said that India could get to see the best of both. “Every cricketer in the team is competitive and will try to do better and prove himself, giving the team a certain advantage.”
Off-spinning great Muttiah Muralitharan, too, had said that it would be exciting to watch the two in action. “Ashwin has been keeping up with his consistency, and now you have Harbhajan back as well. I think he (Harbhajan) will have a good opportunity to play in Bangladesh because you can very well field two off-spinners in the playing XI.”
However, for the ‘Turbanator’, it is just about winning. “Our main job is to win games for Team India and working and bowling with him (Ashwin) will always be a good,” he said in Kolkata on Sunday.