The lasting image of this rain-ruined Test will be Harbhajan Singh giving R Ashwin a hug and a pat on his back after the latter's five-wicket haul. The respect and appreciation looked mutual. In that single moment, any awkwardness that rose whenever there was talk of choosing between Ashwin and Harbhajan some years back seemed to melt away.
With a commanding performance, Ashwin showed he is the right recipient of the baton as the lead spinner but if skipper Virat Kohli walks his talk, Harbhajan's career might get an extension, at least this season. Set to play all their Tests till the World Twenty20 next year in the sub-continent, India would want to settle on a fixed spinner pair as soon as possible. Groundwork for that was laid at Fatullah.
Out of the nine wickets taken by Indian bowlers, eight were claimed by the two spinners. Extracting turn and bounce while bowling at the same spot for long periods, Ashwin looked on top of his game. Harbhajan was not always as convincing, but this being his first Test for two years, the tentativeness was understandable. However, considering his experience, Harbhajan can be expected to only get more assertive, something Kohli trusts him to. The skipper made sure Harbhajan knew he had his total backing."We said, 'this is not your comeback, you were just injured for a while and you're back now - that should be your mindset. We know you can win us a game and we are confident about you winning us a game.' He was pretty confident as well," said Kohli, when asked how he dealt with Harbhajan's comeback.
"I would like to have players who can win us games in the bowling unit. Both of them have that ability. Now that we have a prolonged season in the sub-continent, we need to look at how we can strengthen our team for that as of now. And both of them are good enough to do the same thing when we go away from home as well," said Kohli. "I think both enjoyed bowling together as well, if one put pressure, the other took a wicket and vice versa."
Both spinners went for a few runs but that's because of the aggressive tactics adopted by Kohli. But it's also their exploits with the bat that makes Kohli excited. Both Ashwin and Harbhajan have Test centuries to their names, and are the perfect No. 7 and No. 8. "I would want someone like Ashwin who averages around 40 (36.03) with the bat in Test matches - you really can't ask more from an all-rounder - and someone like Harbhajan to step it up with the bat, and (Wriddhiman) Saha too. If those three start clicking, you literally have eight batsmen and you can't really ask for more as a captain."