R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh have been the spin leaders of their respective eras. (Getty Images)
R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh have been the spin leaders of their respective eras. (Getty Images)

'He doesn't have that option': Gautam Gambhir picks between R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh as India's best off-spinner

  • India vs England: Unlike Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, there hasn't been much comparisons between R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh, but if it was to be done, Gautam Gambhir knows his pick.
By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 07:59 AM IST

Given the kind of form he finds himself in, R Ashwin may be the best spinner in the world at the moment, but whether he is the best off-spinner in the history of Indian cricket is another debate altogether.

During the third Test against England in Ahmedabad, Ashwin became only the fourth Indian bowler to get to 400 Test wickets, the second-fastest to the landmark, and even though he has done all that it takes to be up there in the pantheons of India's greatest spinners, no debate is complete without adding Harbhajan Singh in the mix, who carried India's spin responsibilities for years before Ashwin came to the fore.

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Harbhajan, with 417 wickets, remains India's third-highest wicket-taker behind the great Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev and although he may have played his last for India, his contributions of being the spearhead of India's spin attack and being the country's first hat-trick taker in Tests cannot be unnoticed. Unlike Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, there hasn't been much comparisons between Ashwin and Harbhajan, but if it was to be done, former India opening batsman Gautam Gambhir knows his pick.

"It's difficult to compare eras, but at the moment I would feel that with everything around, I would still rate Harbhajan better when he was at his peak. And Ashwin at the moment is probably the best off-spinner in the world but if I have to compare with Harbhajan Singh, with the kind of wickets he played on with no DRS," Gambhir said on the 'Runorder' show on ESPNCricinfo.

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Although Gambhir offered the nod to Harbhajan, there are areas where the former batsman admitted that Ashwin is better of the two. His variations, his strike-rate and the speed at which he gets his wickets make Ashwin a sub-continent beast. But Harbhajan played his cricket in an altogether different era, where although the pitches weren't a stark contrast to what they are like now, he had the advantage of bowling the wrong one, which is not longer allowed by a finger spinner.

"At the same time, Harbhajan had that advantage of bowling a doosra. He [Ashwin] doesn't have that option because doosra is not allowed by a finger spinner," Gambhir added. "Despite of that, the amount of variations Ashwin has, it's a tough one but at the moment, I would still give it to Harbhajan Singh. If I talk from the overall package point of view, Ashwin is probably a better package than Harbhajan purely from a bowler’s point of view."

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