Harbhajan may make way for Sourav

Indian spinners have so far failed to make an impression due to the unresponsive wickets.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 16:32 IST

If the fast bowlers have seen their efforts going waste on the placid wickets provided for the first two India-Pakistan Tests in Lahore and Faisalabad, the spin bowlers have also been heart-broken with the ball hardly gripping the surface and turning.

From the Indian angle, both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh have struggled to beat the bat, let alone take wickets, as the Pakistan batsmen have gone after them with gusto and gay abandon.

Kumble has had some token success though paying a huge cost for his few wickets, two in Lahore for 178 runs and four in Faisalabad for a combined 268 runs.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who did not tour here two years ago, has been even less successful than his senior partner.

The 'Turbanator' has given away 355 runs without a single wicket to his name after having rolled his arm over for 81 overs. In fact, after his lone success, the wicket of left-hander Imran Farhat in the warm-up game before the series, he has toiled fruitlessly.

However, the Punjab slow bowler has also been a bit unlucky with a few catches dropped off him.

But it is clear that neither he nor Kumble, who joined forces so tellingly in the last home series against Sri Lanka, have been beaten by the nature of the pitches.

It is clear that Harbhajan needs some purchase off the wicket to be successful as he does not believe in varying the angles like Kumble does, and has been exposed thoroughly.

Mohammed Yousuf, too, has not been far behind and has, in fact, taken the attack to both the spinners, laying the platform for Shahid Afridi to run amok.

Indian captain Rahul Dravid reacted sharply during one of the media briefings when asked whether Harbhajan was finding it tough because of the Kookaburra balls being used in the series after having bowled with the SG brand in India recently.

"Is he finding it difficult?" was his sharp retort as he added that every bowler had to adopt to the conditions provided to him.

The lack of success of the two Indian spinners brings back memories of the agony gone through by the famed spin quartet on the revival series in 1978 when Zaheer Abbas, in particular, had taken them to the cleaners bringing a sudden end to their careers.

Erapalli Prasanna never played for India again, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Bishen Bedi played intermittently for a while longer while Srinivas Venkataraghavan, who did not play a Test in that series, lasted till 1983.

Currently, Harbhajan Singh's presence in the team has come under scrutiny with his singular lack of success on this tour as his confidence has also been dented by the shellacking he has received.

But he should have no reason to complain if it happens.

Ganguly gives the team the option of a fourth seam bowler on what is touted to be a more bowler-friendly wicket by Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and the home Cricket Board. He also gives more depth to the batting at number six with his vast experience on a wicket that has been described as bouncy.

Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq, who was clamouring for a wicket with good bounce prior to the series, has explained that the weather conditions in the port city are better for preparing such a wicket. His views have been supported by his coach Bob Woolmer who expects it to provide a fair amount of bounce and feels that spinners would come into play at a later stage.

The PCB has issued a media statement saying it hopes that the pitch would be result-oriented and would "strike a fair balance between the bat and ball."

Whether the chief curator of the Pakistan Cricket Board and the other support staff have been able to prepare a pitch affording lift to the bowlers remains to be seen, but for the present Harbhajan's inclusion seems to be on the line.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 13:49 IST