India in Australia 2011-12

Will the selectors gamble on Harbhajan?

Harbhajan Singh has done little in the Ranji Trophy to warrant a recall, but will the selectors still opt for his experience in Australia?

Nagraj Gollapudi

November 25, 2011

Comments: 44 | Text size: A | A

Harbhajan Singh arrives for a batting net, Nottingham, July 27, 2011
Harbhajan Singh knows a thing or two about getting under the skin of the Australians © AFP
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Logic would say that if you go by the India squad selected for the first three ODIs against West Indies, announced on Friday by the national selectors, the chances of Harbhajan Singh being picked for the Tests in Australia can be easily cast aside. Then again, selection is based on more than just logic.

Harbhajan, who was excluded from the home ODIs against England and the Tests against West Indies, had a chance to find form while leading Punjab in the Ranji Trophy. However, just two wickets in three matches, at an astronomical average of 102.00, does not befit India's current highest wicket-taker in Tests, who has been struggling for form since the England tour.

In England, Harbhajan played in the first two Tests and took just two wickets, albeit in non-spinner friendly conditions where even Graeme Swann found it hard to strike consistently. Critics openly voiced a concern about why the selectors were ignoring his lack of form, thereby delaying the entry of R Ashwin into the longer form, especially after Ashwin had shown the character and the boldness with the ball to attack the batsmen in the shorter formats.

An abdominal muscle strain forced Harbhajan to return home early from England. He returned to fitness a month later to lead Mumbai Indians to the Champions League Twenty20 title. However, according to an Indian board official, he was tired.

It is not that Harbhajan is devoid of supporters. Ravi Shastri, former India player-turned-television commentator, has been a leading voice, saying that India need him for his ability to "get under the skin" of the Australia players and his experience of touring the country. For the record, on India's last tour to Australia, in 2007-08, Harbhajan had a tally of eight wickets in three Tests at 61.25. He conceded over 100 runs in an innings three times in that series.

Australia has not exactly been a favourite hunting ground for offspinners, as Swann, the No. 1 spinner in Tests according to the ICC rankings, found out during the last Ashes when he bagged 15 wickets at 39.80 runs apiece, seven of which came in Adelaide.

"You cannot make a selection on an emotional basis," a board source said. The Kris Srikkanth-led selection panel's recent decisions have shown they are willing to dare. The inclusion of Varun Aaron and Rahul Sharma, two players without strong domestic records, are prime examples. The message is clear: one has to perform and reputations do not matter.

Previous tours of Australia have proven fruitful for India players whose careers were thought to be on the wane. Harbhajan's senior partner, Anil Kumble, turned his career around in 2003-04, while Virender Sehwag enjoyed a revival on the next tour, in 2007-08. His inclusion towards the latter half of the tour, from the Perth Test, changed the team's and his own fortunes.

Most of the XV selected for the ongoing Mumbai Test are likely to go to Australia. Rahul Sharma may make way for a five-man pace attack. Zaheer Khan's selection will be provisional, subject to him proving his fitness in Mumbai's Ranji Trophy matches against Orissa (starting November 29) and Saurashtra (December 6). Praveen Kumar, who was excluded for the home Tests against West Indies, is likely to return to join Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron in the pace department.

One of Wriddhiman Saha and Parthiv Patel could be picked as the second wicketkeeper. In England, Saha was MS Dhoni's back-up for the Test series while Parthiv played in the one-dayers.

Probable squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag (vice-capt), Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma/Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha/Parthiv Patel (wk), R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron. In case of 17: Harbhajan Singh

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

RSS Feeds: Nagraj Gollapudi

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Rumy1 on (November 27, 2011, 8:41 GMT)

How come Gambhir is getting the nod again and again when his average in last 2 years has been 32 runs per innings and he hasn't scored a century in his last 34 innings which is almost 12 Test matches and three series. Unthinkable it is...absolutely. Gambhir's weakness against short pitch stuff and rising delivery outside off stump on bouncy tracks is almost written in stone by now. When lesser mortals - Rampaul, Sammy, Edwards could sort him out what will Siddle, Cumins, Johnson do to him.His fitness is also a questionable these days. But still he gets the nod for Australia tour. Ridiculous, isn't it.On such an important tour, they leave third specialist opener slot vacant for guys like Rahane or Rohit.We can only imagine their fate against swinging cherry on fast bouncy tracks-Perth, Melbourn,etc.By excluding Jaffer Srikkanth and his cronies caused a miscarriage of justice aga. poor guy.However, he shouldn't lose hope.In a years time Srikkanth and Hirwani will be out of selection team

Posted by Rumy1 on (November 27, 2011, 8:19 GMT)

I feel for Bhajji, Jaffer and Parthiv. Who is the third specialist opener for Australia tour. No one. If need be they will ask Rahane to fill in. Feel bad for Rahane as he is not an opener. I don't think it will be good for his career. In any case Jaffer is far more talented, technically more sound and much more experienced than likes of Rahane or Rohit. One fails to understand the blatant bias against Jaffer. On the other hand one fails to understand blatant favor for W.Saha. He somehow makes it to the team by hook or by crook. Parthiv again is made the casualty despite good performances both with bat and keeping. Despite 22 wicket haul by Ashwin in this series I still think Ashwin is a Ranji level off spinner who has a good carrom ball. Even West Indies batsmen had started reading his carrom ball well and had sorted him out by end of series. Favourable pitches and average west indies batsmen were the reasons behind Ashwin success. India will sorely miss Bhajji's experience and guile.

Posted by   on (November 26, 2011, 6:55 GMT)

why is bhajji needed at all he is a match winner but insnt in any form at all 2 wickets in 3 ranji games my team openers viru gauti rahane middle order - dravid sachin vvs virat rohit WK dhoni p patel (becouse he has lot of intl exposure in odi cricket saha has very less and patel better batsman) fast bowlers zaheer(if fit)/irfan ishant varun umesh ishant praveen spinners ashwin ojha

Posted by   on (November 26, 2011, 6:53 GMT)

Why not Sreesanth? He failed to perform in England as any other Indian bowler. It does not mean that he should be excluded always. He z the best bowler in foreign pitches as we all know. And in England too, in the second test match (His first), he was the only bowler who test the English and picked up 3 wickets!!

Posted by   on (November 26, 2011, 6:53 GMT)

India squad for Aus: MSD, Viru, Gauti, Dravid, Sachin, VVS, Virat, Ashwin, Ishant, Umesh, Aaron, Rohit, Pragyan, PK, Ajinkya, Saha, Zak

Posted by Devadatta_Rajadhyaksha on (November 26, 2011, 6:51 GMT)

Check the stats and find who's the best Indian seamer in Aus in recent times. The surprising answer is Ajit Agarkar. 27 wickets in 7 tests. The wickets to tests ratio is excellent (better than Kapil or Srinath's career ratio). Selectors - are you listening?

Posted by bismoy on (November 26, 2011, 6:47 GMT)

harbajan singh should retire..He will not trouble cummins...forget him of troubling pointing and co..

Harbajan has lost is form long back...but sad thing in india people asking performer like vvs ,rahul and sachin to retire not a useless bowler only reason age.

when is last time harbajan taken 5 wicket any one remember??

Posted by   on (November 26, 2011, 6:40 GMT)

include sreesanth for his best revese swing!

Posted by kingcobra85 on (November 26, 2011, 6:40 GMT)

bhajji has 73 average in Aus how is that people are saying he has performed well in Aus ? he has just opened his mouth not his wicket tally

Posted by   on (November 26, 2011, 6:29 GMT)

First of all, I admire Harbhajan, who puts his heart in when playing for the country. The debate around the selection of Harbhajan Singh goes to show the fame surrounding his abilities. But, the reasons surrounding his selection are pretty unimpressive. One, his experience of touring australia and his ability to get under skins of the australian players cannot assure that he'd be grabbing a heap of wickets (His record in australia testifies to that), also, the australian team is under rebuilding and hence low on experience which should negate the advantage of harbhajan's experience. His Experience cannot be the cause of obstructing two spinners who have performed exceptionally well, showing the grit and patience to work out the batsmen. Ashwin and Ojha seems to struck the cord very well. Also, with an offie and left armer they add to the variety of the bowling attack.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (November 26, 2011, 6:25 GMT)

My squad to tour Australia will be: Playing XI for Boxing day will be Sehwag-Gambir- Dravid- Sachin-Laxman-Kohli-Dhoni-Ashwin-Ishant-Praveen-Zaheer(Only if 150% fit). The rest of the squad: Abhinav Mukund, Parthiv Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav, Laxmipathy Balaji. Stand byes: Yuvraj Singh, Amit Mishra, Rahane, Abhimanyu Mithun.

Posted by ssenthil on (November 26, 2011, 6:13 GMT)

Probable squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag (vice-capt), Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Parthiv Patel (wk), R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron. No more If and But, this is the Squad. It will be perfect as well.

Posted by kitten on (November 26, 2011, 6:11 GMT)

I am very surprised by Shastri's comments, that Bhajji should be included because he 'gets under the skin' of the Aussies. Forget about his current form! How stupid can one get. We might as well take Harbhajan along for the ride, and he can be a sort of 'chorus boy', and sit on the sidelines and taunt and tease the Aussies when they bat and bowl! That way he can 'get under their skin', and perhaps India might benefit. The selectors are right in being brave and giving 'the devil his due', and selecting players because of their form, and not because of some 'godfathers' et al. It is about time this nonsense stops. India is doing marvellously without Bhaji. Let him earn his place back with performances, and not before.i

Posted by   on (November 26, 2011, 6:11 GMT)

dinesh karthik...sreesanth nd wasim jaffer shuld be selected..

Posted by   on (November 26, 2011, 6:10 GMT)

My squad: Sehwag,Gambhir,Dravid,Sachin,Laxman,Dhoni,Ashwin,Ojha,Praveen,Ishant, Umesh Yadav,Amit Mishra,Yuvraj,Virat Kohli, Balaji,Zaheer Khan(if fully fit).

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 26, 2011, 5:52 GMT)

pick him, he gets belted around the park whenever he comes here

Posted by Raman.UV on (November 26, 2011, 5:04 GMT)

I m not a big fan of Rohit nor i m from Mumbai. But i feel technically he is correct and its not fair to compare his test chance with his ODI performance where he did well in patches and in tough conditions he batted well few times in T20 world cup 2007 and in VB series in 2008. Selection is based on performance not on some state favored. Me from Chennai and i strongly believe Vijay had to work hard on his batting to get one more chance with the likes of rahane and Mukund. Virat, Rohit, Raina, along with Yuvi along with pujara, Manoj Tiwary will be our next middle order after our fab 3 retires. In bowling we should try Irfan and RP rather than going with Vinay any more..

Posted by aaamsaasza on (November 26, 2011, 4:55 GMT)

BCCI should start making plans minus Harbhajan. No doubt he once was a great bowler and served his country for a long period but in sports it is the performance and not the credibility that guarantees a place in the team. If BCCI wants to add one extra man (on their dime) to the squad to Australia, I would rather prefer to have a genuine fast bowler or a fast bowling all rounder. It is a shame that a bowler of Harbhajan's class has to compete with two very new spinners but again no one except himself should be blamed. And if those two new spinners are preferred over him then he should not be in the squat at all. On a different note.... when it comes to the selection of team to face Oz's in Australia, I would rather prefer India field the team comprising of 4 man pace attack (with at least one bowling allrounder), one spinner (most likely Ashwin), a wicket keeper, and five specialist batsmen. Aggression will be key in Australia..... and it can be brought only with pace attack.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (November 26, 2011, 4:55 GMT)

OJha and Ashwin are doing really well. On the other hand, Harbhajan has the experience and has done well against the Aussies. Given the pace friendly wickets of Australia, only one spinner is going to be put in. Who will it be? Give Harbhajan first test. If he fails, put Ashwin in and if he fails Ojha

Posted by   on (November 26, 2011, 4:05 GMT)

without bajiii very hard for india in australia

Posted by arulraas on (November 26, 2011, 3:53 GMT)

Dinesh Karthik should be given the second wicket-keeper role, it gives the option of an opening batsman. His record in seaming and swinging conditions (England) has been good. Harbhajan should be given the nod, of course, selectors should do the same magic as they did to Yuvraj before the world cup to get the best out of him and Harbhajan should speak to Prasanna.

Posted by switchgrind68 on (November 26, 2011, 3:00 GMT)

I personally feel that even if there is 17th member in the squad, it shouldn't be Harbhajan. Agreed, he has been an excellent performer in Test Matches for India, but now is not his time. Bbatsman around the world have started reading him better, and he an get under the skin of the Aussies only if he's performing well. The 17th member if at all, should be Irfan Pathan, he did well the last time he toured Australia, even grabbing a Man of the Match in the Perth Test. Saha should be given the nod ahead of Parthiv, though it's a tough call because Partiv thrives in swinging and bouncing conditions, and is a good player of the player of short stuff. India certainly need a backup opener and Rahane should be the automatic choice. However, I really hope the Gambhir/Sehwag duo comes good.

Posted by RickyPontingTheGreat on (November 26, 2011, 2:58 GMT)

Why is Nagraj Gollapudi speaking in support of Harbhajan Singh. Does he know the difference in average between 61.25 and 39? Right now, Harbhajan Singh doesn't even look like good enough for ranji team and for past 2 years his bowling performance has been pathetic.

Posted by Vishal_07 on (November 26, 2011, 2:19 GMT)

I think last few months, selectors have done a decent job. Giving chances to Praveen Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Ashwin, Aaron in bowling department has exposed these players to international experience. Batting will need some help and they need to rotate Dravid and Laxman in and out of the line up, they are already resting Tendulkar in many of the series. Would love to see Kohli and Rohit battle it out.

Posted by indianpunter on (November 26, 2011, 2:09 GMT)

surefire recipe for disaster.. if Harbhajan is on the plane to Oz.. both on and off the field. we dont need drama queens ( ie, no Harbhajan and no Sreesanth ) thanks..

Posted by   on (November 26, 2011, 2:06 GMT)

i do not understand the stuff like getting under the skin...all these things come to defend loosers..just work hard and get wickets if can not sit at home...already have enough money for life...

Posted by smudgeon on (November 26, 2011, 2:01 GMT)

Surely not. Ahwin & Ojha have done well recently, they've certainly earned the faith of selectors - one would assume. Two wickets in his last three first class matches doesn't warrant Bhaji a ticket to Australia. I understand the point about getting up Australians' noses, but if that's the case, why not just have Bhaji do all the press conferences on Dhoni's behalf? :)

Posted by deegowd on (November 26, 2011, 1:52 GMT)

With Pujara back in the domestic circuit, I think he will also fancy his chances and I believe he deserves a chance. He must prove he hasn't lost touch in the ongoing Ranji matches to be considered for selection. While Virat and Rahane might get a few chances to prove they are ready to step in when 'the troika' retire, Pujara is one guy who has showed he is right up there to replace Rahul in the test squad.

Posted by   on (November 26, 2011, 0:55 GMT)

where is perth test hero irfan pathan???.........

Posted by RD270 on (November 26, 2011, 0:22 GMT)

Rahul Sharma should stay in the squad and play if possible. Good leg spinners always do well in Oz. Plus this chap has height and bounce. May be useful in Oz.

Posted by   on (November 25, 2011, 23:50 GMT)

I would include Yuvraj Singh for Aus tour, Ajinkya Rahane should also get picked, Rohit Sharma may have to wait, the end of Aus tour is the perfect time for Tendulkar to retire, Ojha deserves to get picked ahead of Bhajji, but it will be a close call, possible 11 will be Sehwag, Ghambir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kohli, Dhoni, Ashwin, Praveen, Zaheer and Sharma. Rahane as backup opener, Yuvraj as middle order cover, Patel as backup keeper, Aaron and Yadav as backup fast bowlers, Ojha/Bhajji as backup spin

Posted by   on (November 25, 2011, 23:10 GMT)

Rahane ahead of Rohit, saha ahead of partiv and as Indian fan I would like to see Ashwin cuz he has shown that he has lot to offer to Indian team...But India could have used WI series to give Irfan pathan second chance and prove him self....

Posted by zico123 on (November 25, 2011, 22:57 GMT)

most of the players from test squad should leave for Australia early by skipping last 2 ODIs against WI

Posted by zico123 on (November 25, 2011, 22:54 GMT)

Pujara, Rahane and Kohli should be picked, no place for Rohit sharma.

Posted by zico123 on (November 25, 2011, 22:53 GMT)

Pujara should be picked in the squad and in playing 11 also, he should bat at 5, laxman at 6. Ajinkye Rahane should be cover for no. 1,2,3,4, and Kohli should be cover for no.5, 6.

Posted by   on (November 25, 2011, 22:53 GMT)

It may be difficult to pick Harbajan and keep him on the bench. If he is in the squad, he would make the 11.

Posted by zico123 on (November 25, 2011, 22:51 GMT)

no place for Harbhajan, 2 spinners are more than enough, so it should be Aswin and Ojha at current form

Posted by TRAM on (November 25, 2011, 22:37 GMT)

17: Harbajan is correct ONLY IF HARBAJAN PICKS MANY WKTS IN THE RANJI matches. Otherwise it should be one of RSharma or PChawla. I dont know how Saha or PPatel would make better keeper than DKarthik. DKarthik career was wasted by putting as opener and expecting too much of him. He still did perform good in many matches. And there is one name Badrinath which no one seem to care about, in spite of top first class performance AND 56 against Styn & co SA team.

Posted by Nampally on (November 25, 2011, 22:11 GMT)

Harbhajan cannot get into squad on present form or on his past 18 month record.It is a lose/lose case. Ashwin has taken his place most deservedly.The team proposed by you has couple of limitations. There are no all rounders in the side. I think there will be 2 all rounders in Irfan Pathan & Jadeja or Yuvraj in place of Praveen & Rohit, if only 17 man squad.I think it should be 18 man squad. Secondly P.Patel is preferred to Saha because Parthiv can be back up opener. I also feel Rahane will pip out Rohit, as an opener. Inclusion of Pathan allows Dhoni to use him at #7 spot & go with 2 specialist seamers + 2 specialist spinners. Inclusion of Jadeja or Yuvraj allows 3 specialist seamers + i spinner. This option may be needed to bolster batting up to #7. It also allows for an additional batsmen to be included instead of a specialist bowler. Ashwin & ZAK can also bat. Dhoni is most likely to avail this option depending upon the pitch & matches won in the series.Rest of the squad is fine.

Posted by camathew on (November 25, 2011, 22:10 GMT)

I prefer Sreesanth on Ausis tour because of his Fast , swing on both sides ability to take wickets on every spell and experience than varun aaron. My squad to Australia: MS Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag , Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Parthiv Patel (wk), R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Sreesanth, Umesh Yadav. (backup : Irfan Pattan/Harbhajan singh/Manoj tiwary/Ajinkya Rahane))

Posted by camathew on (November 25, 2011, 21:53 GMT)

Where is Sreesanth, I feel experience swing blower both ways is necessary in your attack aganist Ausis team. So is better than varun aaron...........for a big tour like Austrlia. Varun aaron is still new ..............he need more time to play big test matches.

Posted by   on (November 25, 2011, 21:49 GMT)

I am an England fan but if I was a selector for India I would say you have to take him he is vastly experienced and even if he does not play will be able to pass on knowledge to the younger less experienced players, his form has not been great of late but form as they say is temporary class is permanent and his overall record speaks for itself and he is still quite young for a spinner.

I agree Harbajan Singh crosses the line with his aggression at times but I would rather see that form a player than them not really seeming to give a damn, I am an England fan and Broad sometimes crosses the line but you need aggression as a bowler especially on incerasingly flat pitches.

Posted by bumsonseats on (November 25, 2011, 21:13 GMT)

have they not learned their lesson, the guys finished. but u will need batters in oz so maybe select him. with both teams fighting for the 3rd and 4th spot. aussies 2 - 0. dpk

Posted by   on (November 25, 2011, 21:08 GMT)

I think Rahane should be given chance ahead of rohit sharma and Saha ahead of Parthiv.....As an Indian fan I would be happy to see Harbhajan left at home, because seen some good things from Ashwin in recent past......and why not give Irfan Pathan the chance to prove him self by playing against WI in ODI....

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