Murali-Bhajji: Clash of Doosras
As India go into the first match in the Indian Oil Tri-series in Sri Lanka on Saturday, fans are eagerly awaiting how the Indian batsmen will fare against the doosras of spin-wizard Muttiah Muralitharan.
Muralitharan, who has the most unorthodox action ever seen in the cricketing field, has bamboozled our batters with his gulie and deception for a long time.
In fact, sice 2000 India has struggled against Lanka in both Test matches and one-day internationals primarily because of the 'Murali' factor.
Rahul Dravid has hit only two half-centuries in 15 ODIs, totalling 402 runs, VVS Laxman has 163 runs in five ODIs, including just one half-century, while Virender Sehwag has managed only 321 runs from 13 ODIs.
The record itself shows how the prolific offie has tormented India in the past.
However, hope reigns supreme for the Men in Blue, this time in the form of Harbhajan Singh. The young, ambitious spinner would be hoping to neutralise Murali's magic with his own bagful of doosras and wreak havoc in Sri Lanka's batting order.
Cricket pundits may feel outraged by the mere comparison of Murali, the phenomenon, with our own Bhajji. But what will be going for the Indian offie is his record against Lanka, which is not all that bad. In fact, if we take the two off-spinners track records, Bhajji's performance against Lanka, unbelievably, is better than that of Murali's against India.
Harbhajan has played 13 matches against Lanka, with an average of 20.59 and an economy rate of 3.87. Murali's average is close to 30 with an economy rate of 4.08 in 37 matches. Moreover, he, amazingly has played almost all his matches against Lanka in the island nation itself with only two exceptions being Johannesburg and Bristol in World Cup 2003 and NatWest Series '02.
This no doubt will be a huge boost for the team, considering the wealth of experience he could share with new pacers Pathan and Balaji about the Lankan conditions.
Indian skipper Rahul Dravid will fancy his chances seeing that statistics, since the team management is thinking of playing Kumble as well, which could prove deadly on the slow-low tracks of Dambulla. The experienced leggie has also been in pristine form, much to the delight of Dravid.
With the spin-duo bowling in tandem, backed up by Pathan's swing and some commonsensical batting by our middle-order, Indian team may well ward of Murali's 'doosra'.
With a bit of luck, we may well be thanking de-Bono at the end of the weekend.