The butterflies can’t be ruled out when it comes to taking on Pakistan, but there is one player in the India squad who would always fancy his chances playing at the Eden Gardens.
Harbhajan Singh has the best Test bowling record in this massive arena --- 46 wickets in seven matches. His Indian Premier League league record isn’t bad either, and his form in the tournament is the main reason for Harbhajan’s inclusion in the World Twenty20 squad.
“I’m in the team because I have done well in the IPL and I have got the experience of playing in big games. I have won two World Cups for India. Maybe that’s the reason I’m with the team,” Harbhajan had said at a media interaction before the WT20.
Harbhajan has played many IPL matches at the Eden but significantly he has been an integral part of the Mumbai Indians team that won two IPL finals here. In a high-scoring final of the 2015 edition, he snared two wickets for 34 runs. He proved to be miserly in the 2013 final, when he took 2/14 from three overs.
At times Harbhajan has been costly but he defended his strategy. “I have some plans on how to bowl. You need to sniff a chance and be brave enough to take it,” he said before providing a glimpse of how the bowlers operate. “I think one ball in a T20 game is equal to three deliveries in an ODI and you as a bowler don’t want to look stupid. So, we break the innings into the first six overs, the next six and then take it in four-over spans.”
Harbhajan knows the Eden Gardens pitch like the back of his hand. “If you bat first it’s always good. If you bat second it gets difficult since the wicket changes a bit. If you bowl upfront with your seamers, it swings. For spinners, it does give you that little side spin. The bounce maybe not as much as in Mumbai, but there is definitely some to play with,” the 35-year-old said.
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The current bowling combination has worked so efficiently that skipper MS Dhoni won’t be worried about the death bowling. But if there is a case of horses for courses, it’s one ground where Harbhajan could be asked to put his experience to use. Besides being handy with the bat, he also brings that aggression that could rile Pakistan.
The Eden pitch being on the slower side, a spinner, instead of a medium pacer, may not be a bad idea. As for Harbhajan, he is eagerly waiting for that opportunity. “Whenever the team requires me, in the semi-final or final, or for that matter any match, I’m ready,” he said.
Dhoni had declared well before the tournament that Harbhajan, like Ajinkya Rahane, will be a super sub, the experienced hand who can come in and get going straightaway in case of a change among the first choice players. Saturday could well be it.