India news February 14, 2011

Swann inspires Harbhajan

35

Harbhajan Singh, the India offspinner, has said he used Graeme Swann as an example of how to bowl on wickets in South Africa during India's recent drawn Test series there. Harbhajan took 15 wickets in the three Tests, and said a lot of his success had to do with bowling a wicket-to-wicket line on tracks that were not offering turn, something Swann, the England offspinner, did during England's tour of South Africa in 2009-10, when he took 21 wickets in four Tests.

"Swann bowled exactly the same throughout the series: wicket-to-wicket," Harbhajan told ESPNcricinfo in an extended interview that will be published on February 15. "He gave himself the chance. I did the same in Durban and got four quick wickets [in the first innings]."

Harbhajan said he watched videos of Swann bowling during that England tour as part of his own preparation for the South Africa series. "His strength is to vary the pace very well. He has a very nice action, gets a good loop. He is a very smart bowler whether it is Test or one-day cricket he bowls a tight line.

"I like the way he bowls especially with the kind of line and length he bowls. I had watched the videos of him bowling in South Africa and what made him successful. I brought similar results and picked up wickets."

Swann has established himself as one of the top spinners in the modern game and, on Monday, won the ESPNcricinfo Statsguru Award for the best bowler of 2010. Harbhajan has not seen that much of Swann bowling himself, having only played two Tests against him back in 2008, and said it was his former Mumbai Indians team-mate Shaun Pollock who, during the IPL, pointed out Swann as an example of how to bowl a straighter line.

Harbhajan had a poor start to the tour, picking up just two wickets and conceding 169 runs in India's heavy defeat in Centurion, and said he made the adjustment because bowling outside off stump in South Africa allowed the batsmen to play through the covers and point.

"In the first Test, I bowled a lot of balls in their areas, which made them comfortable. The line I was bowling was outside off stump but because the wicket was so true, the bounce was true, it was not spinning so much, so the South African batsmen played on the back foot towards cover and point. The same ball they were able to drive, they were also able to walk across to and take a single on the leg side. You can't give runs on both sides of the wicket."

It was former India allrounder Ravi Shastri who first advised Harbhajan to pitch the ball within the line of the stumps. "His reasoning was if the batsman tried to go for the cover drive he would need to open the bat and he would avoid playing the cut shot as I am bowling on the stumps. They also can't sweep or play a cross-batted stroke as there is a chance of lbw. The only option left to them is to be patient and score runs where you have set the field.

"The idea was to make the batsman dare to play against the spin. It clicked. [Hashim] Amla played numerous sweep shots in the first innings at Centurion and it worked because I was pitching outside off. Later Shaun Pollock pointed out that I should bowl wicket-to-wicket otherwise batsmen will hit me through covers or between mid-on and midwicket . So, in Durban, where it does not spin, I kept it straight and Amla went for the sweep and was lbw."

Harbhajan's six wickets were crucial in securing India's win in Durban, and in the third Test in Cape Town, he took seven wickets in the second innings, on a track offering him some turn.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo, Dustin Silgardo is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bluntnortherner on February 16, 2011, 21:51 GMT

    this chap hardbajan plays on cracked up pitches against ordinary players all the time...will get tapped in UK .

  • bumsonseats on February 16, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    when u take the tests played and number of wickets taken. Harbhajan and Swann are very similar per wickets per test matches played , other than Harbhajan playing on wickets that can take spin from day 1. dpk

  • matsharma on February 16, 2011, 6:52 GMT

    Anti Harbhajan comments are so stupid Even if he "inspired" by Swann, is that wrong? Do Swann have any copyright of his bowling technique? Lot of players got inspired and learned techniques from other players...so is that mean that they all have "copied". I think, its just Harbhajan which is a "wrong word" here...

  • on February 16, 2011, 5:20 GMT

    I am surprised Harbhajan, with 393 wickets is willing to learn from Swann 128 wickets and admit that openly in cricinfo. Not only it speaks very highly of him, as it is good to eat the humble pie sometimes and go back to basics. I have gained a new respect now for Bhajji as being great is not just about paving the way for others but also picking up tricks of trade along the way! Way to go Bhajji...

  • dhananjay23 on February 15, 2011, 17:51 GMT

    @ optic swann definitely is a rising star he has had successful times since his debut in 2008 ,we will definately see how far he goes. ..but harbhajan is there for allmost a decade ,and as far as rankings are concerned sachin isnt at the top too....but still is the greatest in the world. ups and downs are always there ...anyways i respect your thoughts ...have a great world cup :) lets cheer them all.

  • GlobalCricketLover on February 15, 2011, 16:17 GMT

    The article should have been titled 'Harbhajan copies Swann'....inspiring is different. Here, from what he has said, he has only copied...

  • on February 15, 2011, 16:15 GMT

    @Aina Maria Waseem Murali owes a lot to Saqlain for the doosra delivery.Murali was never the same bowler when he mastered this delivery.But the problem with Saqlain was he bowled his doosras way too many and it seriously affected his potency.This problem also somewhat persists with Ajmal.Bhajji is an average bowler now.I haven't seen him bowl someone through the gate in the last three years.Swann is the best spinner now even though he doesn't possess the 'other one' in his repertoire.

  • on February 15, 2011, 12:57 GMT

    @ Landl47, yeah u r true Bhaji wasn't at his best in 2010, but then considering stats of just one year doesn't really make any sense, Swann had a very good 2010 but then this so called top spinner was dud in the recently concluded ashes series(barring a 2nd innings in a test match where he took a 5 for).so, next time whn u come here c their career graphs ;)

  • raghu1122000 on February 15, 2011, 12:55 GMT

    Graeme Swann is here;Bhajji is here.. same platform.. lets see who performs better.. and dont say its home conditions for Bhajji and alien to Graeme.. he is the better spinner isnt it.. so he should sort it out..

  • Fast_Track_Bully on February 15, 2011, 11:10 GMT

    Some people trying to be the masters of everything....They do not know that, Aderson got tips from Zak...BD batsmen learned from Dravid....learning a new thing from a successful player will ONLY increase your efficiency...if you think you know enough, then you are a dump...

  • bluntnortherner on February 16, 2011, 21:51 GMT

    this chap hardbajan plays on cracked up pitches against ordinary players all the time...will get tapped in UK .

  • bumsonseats on February 16, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    when u take the tests played and number of wickets taken. Harbhajan and Swann are very similar per wickets per test matches played , other than Harbhajan playing on wickets that can take spin from day 1. dpk

  • matsharma on February 16, 2011, 6:52 GMT

    Anti Harbhajan comments are so stupid Even if he "inspired" by Swann, is that wrong? Do Swann have any copyright of his bowling technique? Lot of players got inspired and learned techniques from other players...so is that mean that they all have "copied". I think, its just Harbhajan which is a "wrong word" here...

  • on February 16, 2011, 5:20 GMT

    I am surprised Harbhajan, with 393 wickets is willing to learn from Swann 128 wickets and admit that openly in cricinfo. Not only it speaks very highly of him, as it is good to eat the humble pie sometimes and go back to basics. I have gained a new respect now for Bhajji as being great is not just about paving the way for others but also picking up tricks of trade along the way! Way to go Bhajji...

  • dhananjay23 on February 15, 2011, 17:51 GMT

    @ optic swann definitely is a rising star he has had successful times since his debut in 2008 ,we will definately see how far he goes. ..but harbhajan is there for allmost a decade ,and as far as rankings are concerned sachin isnt at the top too....but still is the greatest in the world. ups and downs are always there ...anyways i respect your thoughts ...have a great world cup :) lets cheer them all.

  • GlobalCricketLover on February 15, 2011, 16:17 GMT

    The article should have been titled 'Harbhajan copies Swann'....inspiring is different. Here, from what he has said, he has only copied...

  • on February 15, 2011, 16:15 GMT

    @Aina Maria Waseem Murali owes a lot to Saqlain for the doosra delivery.Murali was never the same bowler when he mastered this delivery.But the problem with Saqlain was he bowled his doosras way too many and it seriously affected his potency.This problem also somewhat persists with Ajmal.Bhajji is an average bowler now.I haven't seen him bowl someone through the gate in the last three years.Swann is the best spinner now even though he doesn't possess the 'other one' in his repertoire.

  • on February 15, 2011, 12:57 GMT

    @ Landl47, yeah u r true Bhaji wasn't at his best in 2010, but then considering stats of just one year doesn't really make any sense, Swann had a very good 2010 but then this so called top spinner was dud in the recently concluded ashes series(barring a 2nd innings in a test match where he took a 5 for).so, next time whn u come here c their career graphs ;)

  • raghu1122000 on February 15, 2011, 12:55 GMT

    Graeme Swann is here;Bhajji is here.. same platform.. lets see who performs better.. and dont say its home conditions for Bhajji and alien to Graeme.. he is the better spinner isnt it.. so he should sort it out..

  • Fast_Track_Bully on February 15, 2011, 11:10 GMT

    Some people trying to be the masters of everything....They do not know that, Aderson got tips from Zak...BD batsmen learned from Dravid....learning a new thing from a successful player will ONLY increase your efficiency...if you think you know enough, then you are a dump...

  • bluntnortherner on February 15, 2011, 8:55 GMT

    let me tell you about one of the greatest, Jim Laker ...he SPUN it ...as does Swan. Spin gives dip , as the great yorkshire spinner , Arthur Wood used to say. Arbajar is a good bowler but does not get spin because of his chest on action.

  • on February 15, 2011, 7:41 GMT

    BHAJJI ROCKS>> HE WILL ROCK THE WORLD CUP.

  • Naren on February 15, 2011, 7:26 GMT

    This article mentions a few things.. which I did not see in the full interview transcript.. interesting.

    "His strength is to vary the pace very well. He has a very nice action, gets a good loop. He is a very smart bowler whether it is Test or one-day cricket he bowls a tight line.

    "I like the way he bowls especially with the kind of line and length he bowls. I had watched the videos of him bowling in South Africa and what made him successful. I brought similar results and picked up wickets."

  • on February 15, 2011, 6:38 GMT

    @Asis Rout: Nice to know people still know who invented the doosra. By the way I think that had saqlain been born in india, srilanka, or bangladesh, he would have been a legend. Pakistan has such amazing pacers that the spinners are often hard done by. Saqlain was admirable while he lasted in our team.

  • Nadeem1976 on February 15, 2011, 6:03 GMT

    Thanks Harbijhan for giving credit to Swan, you have improved alot as cricketer and as a person. Every cricketer is a student and he can learn from every where and from any where but good person always give credit to the people he learnt from.

    I like it, Indians are improving moraly and as a team too. Nice example. Well done.

  • Fast_Track_Bully on February 15, 2011, 5:29 GMT

    @Shykh Newaz and all other teams not able to win like Indians...lol

  • landl47 on February 15, 2011, 3:32 GMT

    Judging from the way the wicket played in the India-Australia warm-up match, balls bowled wicket-to-wicket by off-spinners in the World Cup are going to go for wides down the legside. The trick is going to be to bowl outside off stump and fool the batsman into playing for the turn when it's the arm ball. That will get nicks to slip from the right-handers and lbws from left-handers. That's something Swann is also particularly good at, so Bhaji will be able to learn some more! @dhananjay23- Harbhajan wasn't even close to being the best spinner in the world in 2010. Swann was way better in both tests and ODIs (check the article on the statsguru awards on cricinfo). Bhaji was smart enough to learn from the best.

  • swami_psg on February 15, 2011, 3:20 GMT

    Funny how a simple remark can be interpreted in more wrong ways than one [for those Hate-Boys]. in Indian wickets, where there is spin on offer, bowling straighter would mean easy pickings as the ball would drift to the leg. so maintaining just outside-off is a perfect choice for Lbw and with the doosra(straighter one) there are chances of getting caught behind or caught at slips. in SA however bowling straight narrowed down a lot of scoring options as the ball doesnt spin that much to drift to the leg. Good that Harbhajan gave credit to Swann, where it was due.

  • SanjivAwesome on February 15, 2011, 3:05 GMT

    I have learnt a lot of skills in my life by looking up to people I admire. There is a long tradition of apprenticeship in several trades too. Good on ya, Bhaji for continuing to learn for self-betterment.

  • maddy20 on February 15, 2011, 2:50 GMT

    Bowling wicket to wicket , with some variations is always gonna fetch you wickets. One of the reasons why Yuvraj's arm ball gets him so many wickets. Its faster, straight and does not turn. Most importantly, it almost always pegs back the off stump. Indian spinners should employ similar strategies on pitches that do not offer turn. @Shykh It is always good to learn things that make you a better player. What's so wrong and so lol, lol with that?

  • sidzy on February 15, 2011, 1:35 GMT

    I guess when u r bring copied by someone else means u r on the right track. swann no. 1 spinner in the world

  • love_of_life on February 14, 2011, 22:41 GMT

    Dear Bhaji, for that you didn't have to look any further than Pat Symcox, South African best spin bowler, he always bowled wicked to wicket. Guess what?

  • Optic on February 14, 2011, 22:28 GMT

    @dhananjay23 Bhaji is a very good spinner, but to say he is the best in the world atm, is wrong, until SA tour he has been very average for over 2 years and that's why Swann is ranked 2 in the World in Tests and 2 in Odi's up to getting injured and is a great 20/20 bowler as well. Very modest of Bhaji to give Swann credit for following his lead down in SA.

  • on February 14, 2011, 21:33 GMT

    @Shykh Nawaz I think someone has got really mad.Players learn tricks from there fellow competitors all the time.Muralitharan learned bowling the Doosra by watching Saqlain Mushtaq and rest is history.Just compare the standing of Murali and Saqlain in the cricket world now.

  • Cpt.Meanster on February 14, 2011, 21:01 GMT

    @pr3m: You should have admired his humble nature in accepting another better cricketer as his inspiration to work hard and be successful. It's not as if Indians are born spin legends.

    @BackyardCricket: Whatever, he's still India's champion spinner and one of the best in the world. 8 years is only a number. He's still got many years of cricket for India.

  • KTiwari on February 14, 2011, 20:29 GMT

    Good. Bhajji is candid enough to accept. He could have easily not mentioned this.

  • dhananjay23 on February 14, 2011, 20:04 GMT

    guys grow up ...harbhajan is the best spinner in the world right now....if he says he learned something from swann ...thn its more of a respect to swann thn anything else .if u guys lov the game thn start respecting the greats ,no matter where they come from....cheers to cricket.

  • on February 14, 2011, 19:50 GMT

    All the indians i think are copying other teams like this lol

  • on February 14, 2011, 19:40 GMT

    good learnin baji . I went through some stupid comments as indian spinner learning late . What baji meant was how to bowl in sa conditions . Not in indian conditions if any touring team comes to india they will watch harbajan bowl and learn from it . Think before making stupid comments

  • SRT_GENIUS on February 14, 2011, 18:57 GMT

    This article is surprising indeed. I would've thought Bhajji was too egotistical to learn from a bowler who he would consider a "junior", if not an "inferior". Everyone has to re-learn the tricks once in a while - you just need to be open to it. This happens in our desk careers as well.

  • BackyardCricket on February 14, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    Poor Harbajan!!! It took him more than 8 years to learn the basics.

  • CricketChat on February 14, 2011, 17:55 GMT

    Never too old to learn!. Only surprise is that Harbhajan, who has been playing for over a decade now all over the world, hasn't been able to figure it out himself.

  • on February 14, 2011, 17:08 GMT

    nice thnkin bhajji.. graeme swann is indeed a canny spinner..

  • pr3m on February 14, 2011, 17:02 GMT

    An Indian spinner is learning tricks of the trade from a South African fast bowler, and an English spinner. What next, Kohli asking Michael Clarke tips for combating said spin?

  • Balumekka on February 14, 2011, 17:00 GMT

    So to where he was bowling earlier?

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  • Balumekka on February 14, 2011, 17:00 GMT

    So to where he was bowling earlier?

  • pr3m on February 14, 2011, 17:02 GMT

    An Indian spinner is learning tricks of the trade from a South African fast bowler, and an English spinner. What next, Kohli asking Michael Clarke tips for combating said spin?

  • on February 14, 2011, 17:08 GMT

    nice thnkin bhajji.. graeme swann is indeed a canny spinner..

  • CricketChat on February 14, 2011, 17:55 GMT

    Never too old to learn!. Only surprise is that Harbhajan, who has been playing for over a decade now all over the world, hasn't been able to figure it out himself.

  • BackyardCricket on February 14, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    Poor Harbajan!!! It took him more than 8 years to learn the basics.

  • SRT_GENIUS on February 14, 2011, 18:57 GMT

    This article is surprising indeed. I would've thought Bhajji was too egotistical to learn from a bowler who he would consider a "junior", if not an "inferior". Everyone has to re-learn the tricks once in a while - you just need to be open to it. This happens in our desk careers as well.

  • on February 14, 2011, 19:40 GMT

    good learnin baji . I went through some stupid comments as indian spinner learning late . What baji meant was how to bowl in sa conditions . Not in indian conditions if any touring team comes to india they will watch harbajan bowl and learn from it . Think before making stupid comments

  • on February 14, 2011, 19:50 GMT

    All the indians i think are copying other teams like this lol

  • dhananjay23 on February 14, 2011, 20:04 GMT

    guys grow up ...harbhajan is the best spinner in the world right now....if he says he learned something from swann ...thn its more of a respect to swann thn anything else .if u guys lov the game thn start respecting the greats ,no matter where they come from....cheers to cricket.

  • KTiwari on February 14, 2011, 20:29 GMT

    Good. Bhajji is candid enough to accept. He could have easily not mentioned this.