Harbhajan is back, but is IPL the right test for a comeback?

  • N Ananthanarayanan
  • Updated: May 21, 2015 11:01 IST

Whatever else changes in the cricket board’s corridors, its propensity to draw attention remains the same.

On Wednesday, the

announcement of the India squads

for the Bangladesh Test and One-day series brought out both the good and not-so-good aspects of the cricket administration.

First up, the BCCI secretary, Anurag Thakur, and chief selector, Sandeep Patil, took the opportunity to meet the media, a practice stopped for long by the N Srinivasan regime that even did not bother about the captain’s predeparture comments.

The decision to pick all frontline players for a series usually seen as an obligation too was commendable. World cricket’s big-money team has never hosted Bangladesh in a bilateral series, arguing it makes more financial sense this way.

There is no justification in resting players because they had played in a draining IPL campaign as what is technically a domestic tournament cannot take precedence over national team duty.

In fact, the decision to rest many players for the 2011 West Indies tour, in the heady weeks following the World Cup triumph, was one major reason for a slide that led to the rout in England that summer.

Wrong format

Thakur emphasised that things will change for the better. But that didn’t reflect in the selection of Harbhajan Singh as a second off-spinner.

He last played a Test in 2013, bowled 10 overs without taking a wicket in the second innings of that game against Australia in Hyderabad.

Harbhajan should have made the 2011 Caribbean Test series his own but for MS Dhoni and Dravid dropped a catch each at crucial moments of his spell in Barbados and Dominica respectively, letting the hosts escape with draws and just a 0-1 series defeat.

But it makes no sense picking a 34-year-old who has for all his past brilliance played three first-class matches last season, taking six wickets averaging 42.50. That suggests flagging interest and dipping skill levels in a player who made his Test debut way back in 1998.

Anyway, a constant complaint was that Bhajji was more keen on being economical than picking wickets.

If IPL success was a criterion — in 14 matches, he has bowled just three overs short of the 56 he could have and taken 16 wickets at 25.75 — Harbhajan should perhaps have been in the ODI squad.

Patil’s argument that Bangladesh has many left-handed batsmen and so two off-spinners will help sounds hollow. Indian batsmen have been more bothered about the nagging Bangladesh spinners than the other way around. Of course, regime changes can infuse fresh logic. Thakur joked with journalists that they perhaps already knew the squads, before reading them out.

The BCCI secretary’s remark was flippant. The one thing the previous regime ensured was to plug leaks, and one would expect the new board bosses to maintain that. Thakur knows he heads a powerful organisation but one which gags players from making media comments but beats around the bush when they ‘cross the boundary’ — Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik and Yuvraj Singh in Bangalore on Sunday.

Srinivasan installed ‘yes’ men as media managers, whose main job was reporting back to their master while on tour. A promise of change has been made, but it’s not about placating journalists, but being professional.

Getting the player of the day to talk to the media instead of spiriting him away to their biggest competition — the BCCI website — would be a start.

Read: Feels like a new beginning for me, Harbhajan says after recall to Indian Test team

Read: Simmons, Harbhajan star as Mumbai Indians ease past Chennai Super Kings to enter IPL 2015 final

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