I was half-fit for 2nd Test: Harbhajan | india | Hindustan Times
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I was half-fit for 2nd Test: Harbhajan

Brushing aside suggestions that he would have run through the Windies batting, he said, "ifs and buts are best left on the coffee table. It's how you do on the field which matters."

india Updated: Jun 20, 2006 12:08 IST

Harbhajan Singh has made light of the criticism about his omission from the first two Tests against the West Indies, saying his selection would not have guaranteed India victory and confirming that he was only "half-fit" for the second one.

Former cricketers including Sunil Gavaskar and Michael Holding have written strongly about India ignoring Harbhajan when West Indies' top order was full of left-handers and there was a crying need to play five regular bowlers.

Harbhajan, however, brushed aside suggestions that he would have run through the West Indies batting on pitches that seem to suit his bowling.

"Ifs and buts are best left on the coffee table. It's how you do on the field which matters," said Harbhajan as he glossed over his exclusion.

India failed to break West Indies' last-wicket pair to be denied victory in the first Test at Antigua and saw thunderstorms wash out the fourth day's play as they pushed for a win at St Lucia.

While the team management said Harbhajan and Irfan Pathan were "rested" for the first Test, the bowler himself said injury was a reason for him not playing at St Lucia.

"I actually was only half-fit for the second Test. Still it was a game in which we distinguished ourselves and but for rain would have surely ended up as winners," he said.

Harbhajan said he fancied his chances after having a look at the wicket, though.

"But the pitch certainly interested me. It was helping spinners like a few do back home. The top surface had crumbled pretty early in the match," remarked Harbhajan as he emerged from the breakfast table of the five-star hotel in which team has been put up.

Harbhajan loves being involved in the thick of action, so it was frustrating for him to sit in the dressing room and do no better than serve drinks and run errands for the boys in the field.

However, he still found a role for himself in helping Virender Sehwag bowl his off-spinners in a way which gave India a lethal edge in the middle.

"Even at under-19 level, Veeru had the ability to be a good spinner. The one thing I asked him to stick to was to bowl his off-spinners in an area on or outside the off-stump.

"It's difficult to hit that line. Fortunately for him, he consistently bowled a good line and length during the Test.

"He was keen to know how to bowl a floater, a delivery which holds its line and moves away slightly.

"He certainly is a quick learner for he nearly trapped Dwayne Bravo with such a delivery in the second Test. He didn't win the appeal but the ball had the batsman flummoxed." 

Harbhajan is of the view that pitches in the Caribbean do offer grip and turn to the spinners. Even the one in Sabina Park in Jamaica, generally regarded as one of the better pitches in the region, can be a helpful one for the spinners.

"I do remember the last time I played in Sabina Park in 2002. I had eight wickets in all in the Test, five in one and three in the second innings."

Brian Lara is one batsmen who is scourge to bowlers all over the world and Indian captain Rahul Dravid termed his handling of Anil Kumble in the second Test as nothing less than masterly.

But Harbhajan has no respect for reputation and terms his chances against Lara as good or as bad as against any other top flight batsman in the world.

"He is a good batsman and you don't need me to tell it to you. But if he is a good batsman, I am also a good bowler. It can be an engrossing contest."

But for that to happen, the team management needs to find space for the mercurial off-spinner in the playing eleven.

It is obvious they are missing his edge in the bowling. India can do without a batsman, but they can no longer do without one of their all-time great bowlers.