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Bhajji’s poor run hurting Mumbai as they face equally shaky Kings XI

ipl Updated: Apr 25, 2016 18:23 IST
Ashutosh Sharma
Ashutosh Sharma
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Harbhajan Singh’s form played an important role in Mumbai Indians’ victorious campaigns in 2013 and 2015.(Virendra Singh Gosain/HT file photo)

Brad Hogg and Pravin Tambe are in their mid 40s. But in the Indian Premier League, both have showed that their skill or wicket-taking ability has not diminished due to age.

Harbhajan Singh is a veteran of 103 Tests and 236 ODIs, but is still only 35. However, the off-spinner has continued to struggle for wickets, hurting the Mumbai Indians this season.

It was his ineffectiveness which led to his ouster from the India team. Though he was recalled ahead of the World T20, he was effectively a reserve player. He didn’t get a game in the World T20.

Steady turn

Other Indian spinners are making an impact. Young leg spinner, M Ashwin, has made a name for himself with Rising Pune Supergiants while veteran Amit Mishra has chugged along, picking up wickets and bowling economically.

Bhajji needs a change of game plan, and soon. In the six matches Mumbai Indians have played so far, he has taken only three wickets. With Sri Lanka pacer Lasith Malinga out due to injury, MI desperately need bowlers who can take wickets. The pressure is on Bhajji to lead the attack.

In the absence of such bowlers, Mumbai Indians are fast losing the aura as champions. On Saturday, Kings XI Punjab and MI crashed to their fourth defeats of the season. As they meet on Monday, both know time is running out to regain their winning ways.

On paper, both teams are filled with match-winners. Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson are Mumbai’s big players. David Miller, Glenn Maxwell and Shaun Marsh pack the Kings XI middle order. But their presence has not translated into domination.

Rohit and all-rounder Krunal Pandya have done well, as have Kings XI openers Manan Vohra and Murali Vijay, but there hasn’t been much support to them.

Old force

When MI won the title in 2013 and 2015, Harbhajan was in the forefront. He took 24 wickets in 2013 and 18 last year.

But Bhajji has struggled in the last year. He played a rare Test in Sri Lanka in August while his last ODI was against South Africa in October. His stint with Punjab, as skipper, hasn’t been impressive despite the team deciding not to play on the green tracks of Mohali and shifting to Patiala, a wicket conducive to spin.

Former spinner Rajinder Goel, a spin force in the domestic circuit in the 1970s, backed Bhajji to turn things around.

“I have full faith in him. He has taken 400-plus wickets in Tests, which in itself is a testimony to his talent. He has experience on his side,” said Goel, who has taken 640 Ranji wickets.