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Pain relief for a listless Harbhajan

If he wished to escape from the scrutiny and spotlight of international cricket at any time in his career, it should be now. Sanjjeev Karan Samyal writes. Caught in a spin

india Updated: Aug 04, 2011 01:22 IST
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal

It is difficult to know how Harbhajan Singh feels about picking up an injury (Grade I Abdominal Muscle strain) but it's a good guess he is a touch relieved. If he wished to escape from the scrutiny and spotlight of international cricket at any time in his career, it should be now.

It has been nightmare of a series for the off-spinner. The wickets have been unresponsive for spin and his poor form has added to the frustration. Things have gone from bad to worse for his team and it has made the inadequacies more glaring.

In the two Tests, Harbhajan has just two wickets to show in 69 overs, conceding 287 runs. It can be argued his performance suffered in the second game due to injury, but his poor form was obvious at Lord's when the team was left with three main bowlers after Zaheer Khan strained his hamstring. The Punjab player bowled 35 innocuous overs in the first innings and his confidence seemed to take a hit. There was no sign of the usual flight, bounce or guile. The doosra and straighter ones were also missing as Kevin Pietersen worked the ball around with ease. When the team banks on only one specialist spinner, it can cripple the attack.

"Harbhajan surely needs to lift his game. It was as if we were bowling with two bowlers after Zaheer was ruled out," former India chairman of selectors, Kiran More, said after watching the action at Lord's.

It's rare to see India come up short in spin while playing a non-Asian team, but sadly, it's been the case here. Graeme Swann is expected to continue to dominate with Harbhajan's replacements not evoking confidence.

The tour opener was a forgettable experience for the second spinner, Amit Mishra. Not only did he struggle for wickets but the Somerset batsmen toyed with him. The team management is naturally wary of going with him but have got an extra option in left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha.

Both of them are likely to play against Northants and the selection for the third Test will depend on how they perform. Ojha may have made a late entry, but he stands an equal chance for the Birmingham Test. India is basically looking for an option to contain the scoring and the left-arm spinner may be more suited for the role.