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Bhajji pits captaincy skills against past master

Buoyed by a comprehensive eight-wicket win over defending champions Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians would be eager to continue their winning momentum when they take on a new-look Pune Warriors in their IPL match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Amol Karhadkar reports.

india Updated: Apr 06, 2012 00:51 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
Amol Karhadkar,IPL5,Mumbai

There was no time to rest for the Mumbai Indians after opening their account in style in the tournament opener in Chennai on Wednesday. While a few players were lucky to get some rest before the evening nets, captain Harbhajan Singh along with Sachin Tendulkar and Lasith Malinga had to attend a promotional event before heading to Wankhede.

Harbhajan then took young Suryakumar Yadav aside and gave a pep talk to the Mumbai batsman, perhaps telling him he should be ready to step in for Tendulkar in case the master batsman fails to recover from his finger injury. But it also showed Harbhajan as captain has come a full circle.

Coming of age
The first time the off-spinner led at the top level was when he had to replace Tendulkar for the Mumbai Indians' first three games of the IPL in 2008. The Turbanator had appeared clueless. If the three losses on the trot didn’t hurt enough, Harbhajan was banned for the rest of the season after slapping S Sreesanth.

Thus not many would have expected Harbhajan to succeed as a captain. Cut to the Champions League Twenty20 last year and the Punjab bowler sprang a surprise by leading the Mumbai Indians to their maiden title in the absence of Tendulkar.

Testing time
Despite that, Harbhajan’s mettle as captain will face a stern test over the next eight weeks. Though he came out with flying colours against CSK, he will face as big a test on Friday, leading MI in their first home game against Sourav Ganguly's Pune Warriors India.

Harbhajan, as a youngster, was backed to the hilt by then India captain Ganguly. The protégé would be keen to match his mentor, considered one of the best captains in Indian cricket.

Ganguly, on his part, has already been impressed by Harbhajan, the captain.

“Brilliant. I think he has the ability to captain India at some time,” Ganguly said on Thursday.

"I saw it when he won the Champions League for Mumbai Indians. He was brilliant there, he was brilliant yesterday also. He has superb body language, he is a great competitor."

Despite Dada's praise, Harbhajan will not feel vindicated as captain till he proves his worth over a full season and forget the disaster of 2008. Will the Pune Warriors prevent him from taking another step towards achieving his goal?

First Published: Apr 05, 2012 12:47 IST