India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai, 2nd day February 23, 2013

Laxman criticises Dhoni's use of Harbhajan

ESPNcricinfo staff

Former India batsman VVS Laxman has criticised MS Dhoni's use of offspinner Harbhajan Singh in the Chennai Test. Making a comeback to the side and playing his 100th Test, Harbhajan bowled 25 overs - 11 fewer than Ravindra Jadeja - and took one wicket. Jadeja went for 71 in 36 overs, 16 runs fewer than Harbhajan conceded, and took two wickets.

There was a time on the second morning when Harbhajan had not bowled for about 200 minutes; his last over had been about 20 minutes before tea on day one. When he did get to bowl, 51 overs after he had last operated, Harbhajan picked up his first wicket - that of Peter Siddle - but was removed an over after that. Even in his previous Test, in Mumbai against England, Harbhajan bowled about half the number of overs that R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha did. Laxman said he was surprised Harbhajan was not utilised properly.

"I am really surprised with the tactics of MS Dhoni," Laxman said on air in Star Cricket's commentary on the Test. "You want your spinners to take the major bowling chunk. It is surprising that Harbhajan hasn't come into action since yesterday tea time. You want to have more and more variety. You should know which bowler the batsman will not be comfortable facing. That's going to be the spinners of the Indian team."

Laxman said these tactics could crush Harbhajan's confidence. "Harbhajan, who is low on confidence, [now] he knows that the captain doesn't trust his ability," he said. "Secondly, he is not getting enough overs to get back in rhythm. There is a lot of Test-match cricket left in this match, and I am sure that he will play a big part as the match progresses. So it is very important to give confidence to Harbhajan. Not giving him bowling, obviously you are sending wrong signals to him."

Laxman brought up the Mumbai Test too. "This is what happened in Mumbai Test match when Ojha and Ashwin bowled almost double the number of overs what Harbhajan bowled. Especially for someone coming back into the Test team after a long time, he will be low on confidence, he will be a little insecure, and that's when as a captain you are supposed to encourage your bowler."

Laxman said that Harbhajan was not new to performing well for India, and just needed an arm around the shoulder. "You are talking about a guy who is playing his 100th Test match, so obviously he has won a lot of Test matches for the country. He has been a matchwinner for the country, he has done really well for the country, and everyone knows what he can do as a bowler. So it is very important for captain to give him the confidence, and once that is back I am sure he can deliver the goods for the captain."

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