IND vs NZ: Harbhajan Singh leaves out senior-most bowler from India's playing XI for WTC final
With the start of the World Test Championships final only a few days away, Indian fans are eager to know who will turn out for the team in the all-important match against New Zealand. While the team looks sorted on paper with several players performing remarkably well in the last few matches, there might be some surprises when the team is announced. Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh also expects the same, and feels India may leave out Ishant Sharma from the playing XI.
Harbhajan has said he would like to play Mohammed Siraj in place of the veteran Ishant in the WTC final. Bhajji said that Siraj's form, pace and confidence makes him a better choice for the match.
Asked about his preferred team combination for the final, Harbhajan gave his reason why he feels Siraj can pip Ishant for a place in the final XI.
"If I was the captain, I would go with three pure fast bowlers. In that case, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami pick themselves. In this final, I would like to go with Mohammed Siraj ahead of Ishant Sharma," Harbhajan told PTI on Thursday.
"Ishant is a brilliant bowler but for this game, my choice is Siraj, who has shown remarkable improvement in the last two years."
For Harbhajan, a player's current form should always be taken into account and that's where Siraj, whose five-wicket haul in Brisbane was crucial in India's series win, should get a look-in.
"You have to look at present scenario. Siraj's form, pace and confidence makes him a better choice for this final match. The kind of form he is in last six months, he looks like a bowler who is hungry for his chances. Ishant has gone through some injuries of late but has been a great servant of Indian cricket no doubt," the off-spinner said.
"If you leave some grass on the surface, Siraj with his pace will be lethal. Trust me, New Zealand batters won't find him easy as he not only hits the deck but also gets to move the ball off the pitch at brisk pace. He can create awkward angles for batsmen," India's third-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket observed.
Harbhajan was impressed watching Siraj perform in this year's IPL, where he troubled Andre Russell during a match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
"I saw him during 2019 when Russell blasted him to all corners of the ground. This year I saw him bowl some really accurate yorkers and consistently hitting the right spot ball after ball. The pace has also increased," Harbhajan said.
"Russell was beaten for pace during a couple of deliveries. It's the confidence that he gained by playing for India. He would look into batsmen's eyes and batters are on back-foot."
(with PTI inputs)