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India search for Harbhajan of old

cricket Updated: Feb 08, 2010 01:17 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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Jacques Kallis may have missed out on a double ton, but the allrounder said that the Proteas were looking forward to the third morning's play.

"The wicket does a little bit more in the morning," he said after close on Sunday, adding, "They (India) bowled a lot wider lines to me today and went defensive against me."

India certainly did that, but it's not like they had much choice in the matter. As India coach Gary Kirsten said later, "We needed to either get wickets or keep the run-rate down. As we couldn't get the wickets, we did a good job containing."

But that really should be a worry for Kirsten, especially if India want to win a match and not simply draw it. Kallis's remark, “This wicket deteriorated much more than Chennai,” was only in relative terms, one featherbed to another. Kallis's Chennai reference was to the wicket at Chepauk during the 2008 Test, best known for Sehwag's second triple — a wicket that produced no result.

Kirsten simply said, “the South Africans showed that you can bat on it,” but this obviously means that to win this, India's bowlers will need to do more than they have, especially the spinners.

Amit Mishra was plain unlucky to have bowled 53 overs without a scalp. He beat the edge repeatedly and got the ball to spin, troubling the batsmen every now and then. Harbhajan Singh, however, continued to disappoint, in part because so much is expected from India's main spinner.

While he bowled better than he did on Saturday, it was still a subdued performance. There was no imagination — no change of pace, little flight, no variety. He seemed under-confident, bowled a line that allowed the batsmen to easily pad the ball away and his body language gave the impression that he was nervy of being hit.

It's been that way more often than not. Harbhajan at his best, combined with his personality, is a man made to attack, be India's ace in the pack. Given that he has just one five-wicket haul in 13 Tests, it doesn't seem like he's been very attacking of late, on any surface.

Kirsten might have defended India's most experienced bowler, saying “I thought he was fantastic today, I thought he had a really good rhythm going”, but somehow, that had a hollow ring to it. If India need to win, they need the old Harbhajan back.