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'Green top or not, we can win on any surface'

Harbhajan Singh had a subdued first Test in Jamaica but gradually found his rhythm, completed 400 wickets, and looked sharp in the final Test. N Ananthanarayanan reports. Bhajji-speak

india Updated: Oct 07, 2011 14:03 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times

Harbhajan Singh had a subdued first Test in Jamaica but gradually found his rhythm, completed 400 wickets, and looked sharp in the final Test.

In Barbados and in Dominica, the offie could have turned draws into wins but for two catches dropped off his bowling at crucial moments.

Harbhajan talks about his role as the ODI vice-captain in the Caribbean, his bowling and India's prospects on the England tour, where he will look to make amends after missing out on the 2007 tour. Excerpts:

As vice-captain in the WI...
Even when Dada (Sourav Ganguly) was captain, I used to give my suggestions. I have done it with Anil (Kumble) bhai and with MS Dhoni as well. Even if I wasn't vice-captain, I'd have given my advice on anything that could help us win.

About being aggressive...
A lot of my seniors say 'when you are aggressive, the ball comes out differently from your hand and you tend to take lot of wickets'. I display aggression through my body language, not talking. With age I must have mellowed down but I always try to give my best.

On switching to Tests...
It is difficult to switch from ODIs and T20s, and after six months, to start playing Tests because we don't get side games on tour these days. In Tests, one has to bowl at a certain pace, line and length. T20 and ODIs are different. I feel if you are bowling well in Tests, you can adjust to any form. Otherwise, the body takes time. The muscles develop differently in limited-overs cricket, and it takes time to get the muscle memory back for Tests.

Performance on this tour...
It has been satisfying. There could have been another four or five wickets, but unfortunately, there were a few half chances that didn't go in my favour.

The flat pitch in Dominica...
It was probably the most batsman-friendly pitch of the series. Still, we could have got a result had rain had not spoilt the first and second days. (Shivnarine) Chanderpaul was batting on 25 when Rahul Dravid could not latch on to a chance. We should have been able to chase 180 in 47 overs, but we did not manage that. We played some good cricket in the series, especially the bowlers. Ishant (Sharma) was brilliant and PK (Praveen Kumar) bowled well in his debut Test series.

On what to expect in England...
From what I have read and heard, there will be lot of bounce and pace, and that we will get green wickets.

We don't mind, as we know we are capable of winning on any surface. We have a side to beat England in England or outside that country. We need to bowl the right length, whatever the wicket. I have to go out and make sure I bowl according to the plan and take as many wickets as possible.

Taking on England...
It is challenging, where ever you are playing. Even in India, you can't take it for granted that spinners will take wickets. At the end of the day, you have to bowl good balls to get those wickets.

They are a good side, and hopefully we will get the results we are looking for. I am not one who sets targets and says 'I want to take the wicket of a particular batsman'. I am playing against England and I want to take as many wickets as possible. I keep things simple.

Working with Eric Simons...
Eric, our bowling coach, has been particularly good with the fast bowlers. He worked really hard with Ishant Sharma and he is now bowling with great rhythm. I always ask him to monitor my seam and hand position. It helps to have someone else think about your bowling.

Transformation as a bowler...
I have grown as a cricketer since I started in 1998. There is lot of cricket left in me and lot of things remain to be learnt. As long as one is willing to learn, this game has a lot to offer. I am excited about playing for another 7-8 years. If that happens, I see myself close to Anil bhai and some other greats.

Help from Hirwani (Former India spinner and selector)...
Every time I meet him, I discuss cricket. He loves discussing the game and has tremendous knowledge.

Whether on tour or in India, he suggests new things. It is a huge help because sometimes, playing so much cricket, you don't realise what is going wrong with one's bowling.

Although we record and monitor everything, it is useful to have someone explain things like why the body is falling away at delivery, etc.

First Published: Jul 12, 2011 00:02 IST