England in India 2008-09 December 17, 2008

India spinning into a crisis?

It's up to Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra to prove that they can at least partially fill the breach left by Anil Kumble's retirement
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From the common sight of three specialist spinners in the XI at home a decade ago, India might be forced to opt for a lone tweaker in the post-Kumble era © AFP
 

How much do India miss Anil Kumble? At the risk of inviting irate reactions from the old romantics, more than they've ever missed any other bowler. In home conditions, Kumble was in a class of his own. Bishan Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Erapalli Prasanna don't even come close, and Harbhajan Singh must reinvent himself drastically if he's to have anything like the same impact in the second half of his career.

So much has been written about Monty Panesar's travails in India that the performances of Harbhajan and Amit Mishra in Chennai have slipped under the radar. Michael Atherton pointed them out in a typically astute column in the Times, and it's worth remembering just how comfortably Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood played Harbhajan from deep inside the crease. It's far too early to make an assessment of Mishra's qualities, but Harbhajan is bound to come under the scanner now that he's the senior spin bowler in the side.

To analyse his career, it's necessary to break it into two significant portions. Having made his debut in 1998, he only established himself in the side after the 32-wicket heroics against Steve Waugh's team in 2001. Kumble was recuperating from shoulder surgery at the time, but from that point on, it was Harbhajan that was the frontline spinner until he faced finger surgery of his own after the Gabba Test of 2003.

Kumble, who got his chance in the next game in Adelaide, didn't waste it, and Harbhajan was once again back to support-spinner status when he returned against Australia in October 2004. Though he enjoyed a fine series with 21 wickets, it was Kumble who grabbed the headlines, especially on the opening day in Chennai where he took 7 for 48.

Before that finger injury in 2003, Harbhajan's home record was superior even to Kumble, though it's not necessarily fair to compare 18 Tests with 63. Over the 63 games he played in India, Kumble took a staggering 350 wickets at 24.88 and a strike-rate of 59.4. Of the golden oldies, Bedi had the best average [23.99, albeit at a strike-rate of 75.8], while Chandrasekhar had the best strike-rate [64.6]. Kumble's own figures were inflated during the course of a wretched final year, when a succession of injuries restricted him to just seven wickets at considerable cost from four Tests.

Prior to his injury, Harbhajan had taken 96 wickets at 23.33 from 18 Tests. The strike-rate [56.2] too was in the Kumble category. Since returning though, he hasn't been anything like as effective. The 23 Tests since October 2004 have seen him take 114 wickets at 29.78, and a strike-rate of 64.5. The only ten-wicket hauls were against Australia [2004, in a match India lost heavily in Bangalore] and Sri Lanka [Ahmedabad 2005]. Too often, the five-wicket hauls have been meaningless ones, with teams throwing the bat around after raising huge totals.

So, what has changed? The pitches, undoubtedly. The rank turners that Kumble had so much success on in the mid-1990s are largely a thing of the past, and when they do make an appearance [Mumbai 2004 and Kanpur 2008], visiting teams invariably run off crying to the ICC. But blaming the pitches alone would be a cop-out, a failure to admit that Indian spin is in crisis.

 
 
Murali Kartik is highly rated on the county circuit, but that opinion doesn't seem to be shared by India's selectors, despite 22 wickets at 25.77 in his six home Tests
 

Atherton summed up Harbhajan's predicament perfectly in his column. "I am not entirely sure that Harbhajan is the bowler he used to be, now that an overextended use of the doosra - the ball that spins to the off - has affected his ability to drift and spin his stock ball, the offspinner," he wrote. It's something other commentators have been saying for years, and was best illustrated in Sri Lanka a few months ago, when Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan made India's spinners look second-rate.

Both Harbhajan and Mishra will undoubtedly play in Mohali. Just two months ago, they took 12 wickets between them as Australia were routed. It's worth pointing out though that whenever Mahendra Singh Dhoni wants to keep the runs down or take a crucial wicket, it's the pace bowlers and reverse-swing that he turns to. Even in Chennai, it was mainly Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan that reduced England to a fourth-day crawl, with Ishant summoning a superb spell to dismiss Andrew Flintoff.

So, what are India's options when it comes to spin? Not very many. Piyush Chawla did nothing in his two Tests, and Pragyan Ojha is just as unproven. Murali Kartik is highly rated on the county circuit, but that opinion doesn't seem to be shared by India's selectors, despite 22 wickets at 25.77 in his six home Tests.

With quite a few pace options waiting in the wings - Munaf Patel and a fit-again Sreesanth would definitely add value to the side - it's not unthinkable India will soon go the Australian way. For the best part of 15 years, they played mainly three fast bowlers alongside Shane Warne. Sadly for India, there's no Warne on the horizon, and it's up to Harbhajan and Mishra to prove that they can at least partially fill the breach left by Kumble's retirement.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY since7 on | December 20, 2008, 15:37 GMT

    frankly bhajji has not performed well in home conditions as he used to..There was a time not long ago,when he used to run through oppositions.just because he picks up a couple in an innings doesnt mean he is bowling well..The truth is the conditions are good enough for more..As for bowling well away,he is yet to prove himself.He bowls too fast and too short but the real issue with him is he doesnt react well when he is attacked or wicketless..He looks pedestrain when you loft him a couple of times..And that quicker delivery of his.That ball used to be a wicket taking weapon but as athy says too much variations and fewer stock ones..The same applies to chawla..Mishra turns turns the ball better..But I suppose it is time we need to lessen the burden the two quicks have been carrying through by adding another or else they will end up in hospitals soon

  • POSTED BY rajanbala on | December 20, 2008, 8:54 GMT

    first things first i think mr.dileep premachandran has mentioned only three great spinners and totally forgotten about the venkatraghavan a lion hearted cricketer par excellence in 1970 in england he bowled along side bedi chandra pras and he not only bowled sucessfully but also converted the half chances in forward and backward short leg positions along with eknath solkar these catches made bedi pras and chandra better bowlers its very ironical when mentioning about spinners dileep has forgotten venkats name

  • POSTED BY gargaldo-dada on | December 19, 2008, 6:48 GMT

    According to me if we want to invest in the future we should give Piyush Chawla a long run in both formats of the game. I was surprised that Amit Mishra was picked ahead of him in the Australia series that too just a few days after his five wicket haul against Ponting & Co. for India A. Chawla is young, intelligent, possesses a great wrong 'un and also spins his leg break a lot. His batting is also handy. His last series was the Asia Cup which was played on some of the worst pitches in the world that were nothing short of Bowlers Graveyards. Cmon Mr. Srikanth and Co. toss the ball upto Chawla and see the magic unfold.

  • POSTED BY Paddy_Subramaniam on | December 19, 2008, 4:47 GMT

    Anil Kumble did a brilliant job and was the match winner on home soil. Indian team relied heavily on him and it suited the circumstances as Harbajan Singh was the only other bowler capable of taking 5 wickets or more in an innings. As expected, this also exposed India especially when the wickets did not offer any help to the spinners. But now the team has a well balanced attack and showing signs of possessing the ability and the variety to bowl oppositions out on any wicket by sharing the load which is what a team needs if they have to get to the top in world cricket.

  • POSTED BY insightfulcricketer on | December 19, 2008, 2:15 GMT

    Harbhajan is a shadow of his past is agreeable. I think after the barrage he got from Afridi and his subsequent ejection from the team has made him markedly defensive. To take Atherton as an astute judge of the game is hilarious. This guy other than talk inanties did not have one cricketing tactic which worked in his tenure as captain. Look at his batting and captaincy record. In no way did the Sri Lankans make the Indian team look second rate. India actually won the second test and if the crucial decision on Sangakarra not gone against them probably would have won that too. Harbhajan had a key hand in the second and third test. Talking about Kumble - he should have been dropped when he so miserably failed to bowl out South Africa when India had a great chance to go up 2-1 instead ended up losing the test match. Both Kumble and Dravid have managed to be in the team for last two years without a single performance to justify their presence.

  • POSTED BY MalikfromRohtak on | December 19, 2008, 1:53 GMT

    Good and timely article. Bhajji has clearly peaked already & is struggling. If he cant be effective and a killer on Indian wickets, then he's clearly on the decline. So Long Bhajji. BCCI selectors have to groom some young spinners... its unfathomable that India is having problems finding a killer spinner.

  • POSTED BY Nampally on | December 19, 2008, 0:50 GMT

    During past 6 decades, India produced a wealth of spinners, all different in style. Vinoo Mankad overlapped his playing career with SP Gupte, Ghulam Ahmad, Nadkarni and Durani. Jasu Patel cane a bit later. But the interesting point was Nadkarni and Mankad could bowl for hours with accuracy, control & guile. Gupte turned the ball prodigiously. We had Chandrasekhar, Prasanna followed by Kumble. Both Chandra and Kumble bowled at a much quicker pace with less turn but plenty of bounce unlike Gupte. Now we have Harbhajan bowling off spin, Mishar and Chawla bowling leg spin & Kartik bowling left hand spin and supported by Yuvraj & Sehwag. These are relatively inexperienced but have good potential. India is not spinning into crisis. It is true that ODI & 20 over games have been destructive for spinners with lack of enthusiam for spin bowling. This is one reason that even spinners are pushing the ball faster rather than flight it. We need to train these spinners approriately for test matches.

  • POSTED BY Kochikkaran on | December 18, 2008, 22:40 GMT

    Come on! I don't know why you are referring to fielding a single spinner in the team as a crisis!

    As they say, we should always field the best 4 bowlers and if our best bowlers are all fast bowlers and are capable of picking up wickets in any kind of pitch/situation, there is nothing wrong with having all 4 of them play together.

    I am sure Bhaji and Amit are capable enough to play their part even if only one of them is there or two. What matters is if the whole team is picking up 20 wickets and not whether a single bowler is doing that!

  • POSTED BY Karan_nuts on | December 18, 2008, 21:49 GMT

    Hey Dileep, I think your article contains pertinent views. Harbhajan is a pale shadow of his former self. He might have taken 310 wickets. But on a pitch, which was worm out, where the ball was biting and jumping. Both of the spinners could not do anything, in front of the home crowd. Indian spinning is surely in crisis. Harbhajan should let the bowl do the talking, rather than making caustic comments in press conferences.

  • POSTED BY nirenjoshi on | December 18, 2008, 20:50 GMT

    Isn't Harbhajan the second highest wicket taker in Tests for 2008? I dont know what the fuss is about Harbhajan.

  • POSTED BY since7 on | December 20, 2008, 15:37 GMT

    frankly bhajji has not performed well in home conditions as he used to..There was a time not long ago,when he used to run through oppositions.just because he picks up a couple in an innings doesnt mean he is bowling well..The truth is the conditions are good enough for more..As for bowling well away,he is yet to prove himself.He bowls too fast and too short but the real issue with him is he doesnt react well when he is attacked or wicketless..He looks pedestrain when you loft him a couple of times..And that quicker delivery of his.That ball used to be a wicket taking weapon but as athy says too much variations and fewer stock ones..The same applies to chawla..Mishra turns turns the ball better..But I suppose it is time we need to lessen the burden the two quicks have been carrying through by adding another or else they will end up in hospitals soon

  • POSTED BY rajanbala on | December 20, 2008, 8:54 GMT

    first things first i think mr.dileep premachandran has mentioned only three great spinners and totally forgotten about the venkatraghavan a lion hearted cricketer par excellence in 1970 in england he bowled along side bedi chandra pras and he not only bowled sucessfully but also converted the half chances in forward and backward short leg positions along with eknath solkar these catches made bedi pras and chandra better bowlers its very ironical when mentioning about spinners dileep has forgotten venkats name

  • POSTED BY gargaldo-dada on | December 19, 2008, 6:48 GMT

    According to me if we want to invest in the future we should give Piyush Chawla a long run in both formats of the game. I was surprised that Amit Mishra was picked ahead of him in the Australia series that too just a few days after his five wicket haul against Ponting & Co. for India A. Chawla is young, intelligent, possesses a great wrong 'un and also spins his leg break a lot. His batting is also handy. His last series was the Asia Cup which was played on some of the worst pitches in the world that were nothing short of Bowlers Graveyards. Cmon Mr. Srikanth and Co. toss the ball upto Chawla and see the magic unfold.

  • POSTED BY Paddy_Subramaniam on | December 19, 2008, 4:47 GMT

    Anil Kumble did a brilliant job and was the match winner on home soil. Indian team relied heavily on him and it suited the circumstances as Harbajan Singh was the only other bowler capable of taking 5 wickets or more in an innings. As expected, this also exposed India especially when the wickets did not offer any help to the spinners. But now the team has a well balanced attack and showing signs of possessing the ability and the variety to bowl oppositions out on any wicket by sharing the load which is what a team needs if they have to get to the top in world cricket.

  • POSTED BY insightfulcricketer on | December 19, 2008, 2:15 GMT

    Harbhajan is a shadow of his past is agreeable. I think after the barrage he got from Afridi and his subsequent ejection from the team has made him markedly defensive. To take Atherton as an astute judge of the game is hilarious. This guy other than talk inanties did not have one cricketing tactic which worked in his tenure as captain. Look at his batting and captaincy record. In no way did the Sri Lankans make the Indian team look second rate. India actually won the second test and if the crucial decision on Sangakarra not gone against them probably would have won that too. Harbhajan had a key hand in the second and third test. Talking about Kumble - he should have been dropped when he so miserably failed to bowl out South Africa when India had a great chance to go up 2-1 instead ended up losing the test match. Both Kumble and Dravid have managed to be in the team for last two years without a single performance to justify their presence.

  • POSTED BY MalikfromRohtak on | December 19, 2008, 1:53 GMT

    Good and timely article. Bhajji has clearly peaked already & is struggling. If he cant be effective and a killer on Indian wickets, then he's clearly on the decline. So Long Bhajji. BCCI selectors have to groom some young spinners... its unfathomable that India is having problems finding a killer spinner.

  • POSTED BY Nampally on | December 19, 2008, 0:50 GMT

    During past 6 decades, India produced a wealth of spinners, all different in style. Vinoo Mankad overlapped his playing career with SP Gupte, Ghulam Ahmad, Nadkarni and Durani. Jasu Patel cane a bit later. But the interesting point was Nadkarni and Mankad could bowl for hours with accuracy, control & guile. Gupte turned the ball prodigiously. We had Chandrasekhar, Prasanna followed by Kumble. Both Chandra and Kumble bowled at a much quicker pace with less turn but plenty of bounce unlike Gupte. Now we have Harbhajan bowling off spin, Mishar and Chawla bowling leg spin & Kartik bowling left hand spin and supported by Yuvraj & Sehwag. These are relatively inexperienced but have good potential. India is not spinning into crisis. It is true that ODI & 20 over games have been destructive for spinners with lack of enthusiam for spin bowling. This is one reason that even spinners are pushing the ball faster rather than flight it. We need to train these spinners approriately for test matches.

  • POSTED BY Kochikkaran on | December 18, 2008, 22:40 GMT

    Come on! I don't know why you are referring to fielding a single spinner in the team as a crisis!

    As they say, we should always field the best 4 bowlers and if our best bowlers are all fast bowlers and are capable of picking up wickets in any kind of pitch/situation, there is nothing wrong with having all 4 of them play together.

    I am sure Bhaji and Amit are capable enough to play their part even if only one of them is there or two. What matters is if the whole team is picking up 20 wickets and not whether a single bowler is doing that!

  • POSTED BY Karan_nuts on | December 18, 2008, 21:49 GMT

    Hey Dileep, I think your article contains pertinent views. Harbhajan is a pale shadow of his former self. He might have taken 310 wickets. But on a pitch, which was worm out, where the ball was biting and jumping. Both of the spinners could not do anything, in front of the home crowd. Indian spinning is surely in crisis. Harbhajan should let the bowl do the talking, rather than making caustic comments in press conferences.

  • POSTED BY nirenjoshi on | December 18, 2008, 20:50 GMT

    Isn't Harbhajan the second highest wicket taker in Tests for 2008? I dont know what the fuss is about Harbhajan.

  • POSTED BY poppingcrease on | December 18, 2008, 18:07 GMT

    Why is Murali Kartik never selected? This clearly shows that the Indian cricket team selection is still based not on merit but on regional biases. Harbhajan's bowling is stale and his strike rate has declined. All this with an ugly dodgy action that casts a shadow over his record. He has had an incredibly long run in the team and its time we look beyond him. Murali Kartik is a left arm spinner in the classical mould who has troubled the best batsmen. There can be no cricketing reason for him being repeatedly overlooked. I would play Kartik and Mishra as the two spinners and bring in Harbhajan only if a third spinner is necessary.

  • POSTED BY punjabcricket on | December 18, 2008, 17:42 GMT

    what a rubbish article and what a bunch of fickle fans we have here. the same people who were rubbishing kumble are now calling him great. be consistent please.

    kumble is great and i was sad to see him retire. the authour of this article mentions harbhajans performance in the recent sri lanka series. id like to remind him that it was only harbhajans bowling and sehwags batting that won them the 2nd test match, nothing to do with kumble, khan or sharma. what a poor memory you have.

    harbhajan has been described as defensive as well, the guy has taken 310 wickets , wicket every 10 overs. no satisfying some people. and he isnt exactly defensive with the bat. he has scored more runs that dravid this year. so please do your research and be consistent with your judgements, the guy has won more matches for india than anyone except maybe kumble kumbles bowling and sehwags batting.

  • POSTED BY rman7 on | December 18, 2008, 17:21 GMT

    I think it is time that the Indian team looks into Monish Parmar...he is taking wickets by the bucket loads in domestic and team A engagements. Also Ajinkya Rahane should be given a look. Who knows we might just unearth the next Murali (Parmar bowls with a similar action) and Tendulkar (Rahane has an average of 65+ with a 80+ strike rate)! Both of them are 20 years and could serve the country well for a long time!!

  • POSTED BY ArjunNatarajan on | December 18, 2008, 17:14 GMT

    Harbhajan may not be in the best form right now but that does not mean we are spinning into a crisis. Piyush Chawla may have done nothing in two tests but a player cannot be judged by two tests alone. In any case, he has been quite successful in ODI's. Besides, there are also Pragyan Ojha, the forgotten Ramesh Powar, KP Appanna, Mohnish Parmar waiting for a chance to prove themselves.

  • POSTED BY abhinavpraneet on | December 18, 2008, 15:53 GMT

    On one hand, the void left by Kumble's retirement is not something that can be easily lapped up even a fairly seasoned bowler like Bhajji. More than his spin, it was Kumble's fierce determination that got him bulk of his wickets. Even in the flattest of the conditions, Kumble's relentless attack would put a fear and doubt in the batsmen's mind. Bhajji is yet to become a real threat as a spin bowler, something which Kumble, Warne and Murlidharan exuded effortlessly!

    On the other hand, its good to see that our reliance on spin has waned in past few series with re-emergence of Zaheer Khan as the pace spearhead, ably backed up by a future prospect in Ishant Sharma. Munaf Patel & RP Singh have also been promising.

    I think it would be wise to look at the current situation as not of spin in being in crisis, but rather pace emerging in a spin dominated cricket team.

  • POSTED BY abhyu23 on | December 18, 2008, 14:37 GMT

    Hello Snarge, I dont remember Indians going over the top after Mumbai test, on the other hand I do remember Matthew Hayden kicking the pitch in disgust after the match and Ponting lodging a formal complaint with the ICC. Now that wasn't a moderate reaction, was it? And besides,if turning tracks can be branded as undrprepared, then the completely seaming pitches that are prepared for some of the test matches in England, New Zealand or the Gabba, where the ball moves around a mile throughout the five days, should also be branded as underprepared. After all, playing spinners on a turning track requires as much skill as playing pacers on seaming tracks.

  • POSTED BY ari2007 on | December 18, 2008, 14:02 GMT

    I believe all this criticism is highly unfair..still feel he is the best finger spinner India has had in the past 35 years..as a matter of fact Bedi is overrated as those were the days were CRICKET as a game was defensive in nature and traditionally a batsman was considered good if he could handle Pace and in days of Uncovered wickets people like Underwood ruled...Similarly the pitches world wide since 1998 have undergone a sea change...Think the pitch committee and commercial deal have a great role to play in the flatenning of tracks as longer the game progresses greater the return...run a checklist...do we any more get the swing at Headingly,Bounce at KINGSTON or PERTH,Spin in Indian pitches..If pitches are such and with multiple forms of the game how can somebody like Harbhajan be scrutinized in that detail( he already has 310 plus wickets)....Flat pitches is a classical reason why bowling performances have deteriorated over the past 5-7 years..

  • POSTED BY SachinIsTheGreatest on | December 18, 2008, 13:52 GMT

    Harbhajan has been performing poorly for quite a long time now. I was happy to see Ramesh Powar given a chance but a few tests later he was dropped. He deserved at least half as many chances as Harbhajan. Powar was far more willing to flight the ball.

    Harbhajan is depending too much on "magic" to take wickets. He has given up on trying to be patient and working a batsman over. It shows in how he starts "throwing" darts the moment he is under pressure. A bowler like Krejza is showing far greater courage in tossing the ball up and inviting the drive or the lofted shot.

    atulXI, you are right to quite an extent. However, wouldn't that apply to every country? Even India seems to winning more often away since 2001 ;-)

  • POSTED BY Subra on | December 18, 2008, 13:48 GMT

    It is unfair to say that the Indian spinners of yore got wickets because of the umpires. Even now with neutral umpires there are genuine mistakes - but nobody makes a big issue. Until such time we remove the human beings and have computerised robots - umpires will be blamed when they make a mistake. Strangely nobody praises them when they make the correct decision. Studies have shown that umpires are between 90 and 95% correct - yet we harp on their errors! Could it be that with greater use of technology, teams are studying the actions of bowlers and thus renderiung them ineffective. Harbhajan has been a great servant of Indian cricket - most of those who complain have never worn whites! What a cricketer needs when he is going through a patch is encouragement, not negative remarks. Siva from Singapore

  • POSTED BY Vijayendra on | December 18, 2008, 13:25 GMT

    @atulXI: Yes, who was the umpire? That Kumble clip is on Youtube, so go and watch it once again. Of all the decisions, only the Afridi wicket looked doubtful. Everything else was either plumb in front, caught, or bowled. Don't just rant whatever you feel like, use your pea-sized brain sometimes!

  • POSTED BY Mnishn on | December 18, 2008, 13:25 GMT

    Interesting article Dileep. First of all its injustice that you should compare Kumble with Harbhajan. One is a legend and the other is still maturing. Spinners mature with age and perform better when they age. I don't know why Murali kartik is being consistently overlooked when he has done so well in the limited opportunities he's got. Comments made on less turning wickets and 2 neutral umpires making wickets hard to come by for spinners does hold true to an extent in my opinion. But it is lack of knowledge of Asian wickets and bowling to say that spinners were given easy wickets by home umpires. You will see that fast bowlers will get better response from foreign umpires as they are used to pace bowling and the wicket possibilities associated with it, Whereas Asian umpires know of more possibilities with spin bowling. AtulXI doesn't seem to be well informed about Kumble's 10-74. There were only 2LBW's and they were plumb, rest were caught off big edges and bowled, Atul FIY.

  • POSTED BY jadedfan on | December 18, 2008, 13:23 GMT

    The 2001 series had some of the most sporting pitches I have seen. Harbhajan was the main man for India, but remember McGrath had a great outing in Mumbai and him and Jason Gillespie brought India to its knees in Chennai. Gillespie got Tendulkar with a bouncer! In 1998, it was Srinath (and Ganguly with his cunning swing) who destroyed the Australian top order. West Indies under Lloyd never seemed to have an issue with 'rank turners'. There have been minefields, sure, but it's also been a convenient excuse for quite a few teams. Poor Indian batting performances overseas didn't help. Capable visiting teams / batsmen have had a whale of a time on pitches which have always been good for batting. England with a modest team took the series in '84-85. Took them three innings to figure Siva out, and then that was that. Neil Foster (seam bowler getting bagful of wickets in India?) did the rest. Enough already!

  • POSTED BY Percy_Fender on | December 18, 2008, 12:39 GMT

    It is unfortunate that we can be so judgemental so easily. While I agree that there is a qualitative dip in the performances of Harbhajan after that memorable series against Australia in 2001, I cannot understand the need to be sceptical about Mishra and Chawla after just 4 and 2 tests respectively. The greatest spin bowlers since 1990 have been Warne, Muralidharan and Kumble. Warne was thrashed by Tendulkar and Shastri primarily and by everyone else who batted in that Sydney test in 92 and just no one could have seen such a great future for him even after some more Tests. He was truly born in Sri Lanka, when he spun Australia to a famous victory were give little chance to do so. Muralidharan was also not an instant success and came into view only after he mastered the 'doosra'. Before that he was just another off spinner like the many in Sri Lanka. Kumble was written of derisively by many former captains who I do not wish to name now. I feel we need to be more objective in writing.

  • POSTED BY jokerbala on | December 18, 2008, 12:26 GMT

    It would be fair to say that there is an amount of truth in this article which needs to be addressed,but the thing which shifts the balance in favor of Bhajji, if there is a two way battle between Mishra and Bhajji has been the latter's batting form.His knocks in recent times have come when India were in dire straits and it has saved Dhoni the blushes.

  • POSTED BY Krishna2007 on | December 18, 2008, 12:09 GMT

    Saw Kumble's 10 wickets on youtube. Only one wicket, that of Ijaz looked doubtful. All the others decisions were spot on. AtulXI needs to temper his comments. Indians really specialise in putting down their heroes. Greats like Kumble, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly should be lauded without reserve. And right now, we need to acknowledge that Sehwag is part of this pantheon. No batsman in the world can come close to him as a demolition specialist in Tests.

  • POSTED BY sudhirk on | December 18, 2008, 10:41 GMT

    i partly agree with this but i think bhajji lack of results is the fact that he is not using his off spinner more and is trying too many things very early, think that off-spinner's succes relies on flight and luring the batsmen into a false stroke. he needs to bowl a lot slower and spine the ball more, which he can do

  • POSTED BY mrgupta on | December 18, 2008, 10:21 GMT

    Very well written. It sounds so true that ever since Kumble had lost his magic few years ago team India has looked second grade in Spin dept. Its mostly been the seamers who have dominated the Indian wins whether it be Home or away. Bhajji is nowhere near his best and also not by any standards a world class bowler today and Mishra is only learning. With Zak and Ishant in our bowling and Irfan, Munaf & Sree waiting India can boast of a bright future for fast bowling but same cant be said abt the spin. With India doing so well with their seamers imagine what they could do if they have one of the spinners emerging as a world class bowler. I hope Bhajji can get back to his old days and Mishra/ Chawla/ Ojha can live upto their Talent

  • POSTED BY TheDoctor394 on | December 18, 2008, 10:06 GMT

    I can only think of one Harbhajan LBW in that 2001 series that was not out, and I've watched the highlights a few times. Overall, the umpiring was very good, and did not favour any particular bowler.

  • POSTED BY mohit_kabra on | December 18, 2008, 9:48 GMT

    your article exactly mirrors my thoughts exactly.. i feel harbhajan's variations have become (quite paradoxailly)very repetitive. he is very talented as far as accuracy is concerned, but his line of attack once he goes for some or doesnt get a wicket early on is middle and leg, and his trajectory flatten. once in a while he does adjust his pace very well (most recently in a one dayer against england when he took wikets as well as choked the runs after england had got off to a flier) which shows what a bloody good bowler he can be. the skeptic in me feels that this is the bad effect of oneday and t20 cricket.harbhajan has to reinvent himself and fast bcoz if the poms can play him comfortably..then so can anyone else..!

  • POSTED BY mramacha on | December 18, 2008, 9:32 GMT

    This article is something really serious. Even i felt the same after wathching last few test played in india. Harbajan is totally ineffective in indian conditions, then what will be his performance outside India. This is time for the selectors to do a soul search. Bring in new comers and try to explore as much possibilities. I dont understand why Ohja is not exploring. Why he is not ready for test cricket. Was tendulkar ready for test cricket at the age of 17? So as the case of Kumble? Catch them young? that will save the Indian cricket and what india is famous for. Otherwise, in the future tests in india will have only one result in these flat pitches. "Draw"

  • POSTED BY snarge on | December 18, 2008, 9:18 GMT

    Don't talk about anyone running off crying to the ICC over the pitch for the 2004 Bombay Test, stupid. It was the Indians who were admitting the conditions were disgraceful. The Australians reacted very moderately to the whole thing.

  • POSTED BY aditya87 on | December 18, 2008, 8:55 GMT

    Two reasons why Indian spinners have become less effective on the subcontinent: one is that pitches have flattened out, and two is that other teams have started to adapt better. I'm sure someone like Murali Kartik or Pragyan Ojha deserves a place in the side. But it disrupts the combination...ideally you want a leggie and an offspinner/left arm spinner.

  • POSTED BY ZICO on | December 18, 2008, 8:22 GMT

    I don't know why the selectors keep turning a blind eye towards Murali Kartik. I mean he's doing a splendid job overseas, yet india keep looking to inexperienced spinners like chawla and ojha. Age might be one criterion but kumble played cricket till he was 38, so really that shouldn't matter...

  • POSTED BY Yeshu on | December 18, 2008, 8:11 GMT

    dont compare kumble with anybody in world hez genuis

  • POSTED BY abhijithsimha on | December 18, 2008, 8:05 GMT

    Excellent article.... Harbhajan has to be one of the most defensive spinner's the world has ever seen, though he behaves radically differently when he is not holding the ball. I feel he is not even the best off-spinner in the team, Sehwag bowls the off-spinning deliveries much better than what Harbhajan is doing at the moment. To be the No.1 team in world Team India will have to quickly part ways with this mediocre bowler in Harbhajan, and get a more aggressive one, be it a changed Harbhajan or some body like Piyush Chawla (who always tries to flight the ball nad pick up wickets).

  • POSTED BY atulXI on | December 18, 2008, 7:54 GMT

    let me also add another bizzare twist to the effectiveness of Indian spinners in India. Ever since 2 neutral umpires are intorduced by ICC, our spinners effectiveness has reduced, which surely can be statistically proven. Even India's home record has taken a beating with the introduction of 2 neutral umpires. this is clearly evident, with our inability to beat NewZealand, England (in previous tour) Pakistan and South Africa. You might want to check, how much of Harbhajan's 32 wickets in epic series of 2001 against Aussies were with Indian umpire standing. I clearly remember Harbhajan's desperation to dismiss McGrath in Kolkatta test for some 4 overs, then, he smartly changes end and dismiss McGrath 3rd ball. Guess what !!! LBW !!!. Remember those days, only one neutral umpire was standing. Kumble did his demolition job against Pakistan in Delhi test 10-64, Who was the umpire ?? you are right in pointing out Harbhajan's lack of effectiveness in India, Post 2001, possibly a factor

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  • POSTED BY atulXI on | December 18, 2008, 7:54 GMT

    let me also add another bizzare twist to the effectiveness of Indian spinners in India. Ever since 2 neutral umpires are intorduced by ICC, our spinners effectiveness has reduced, which surely can be statistically proven. Even India's home record has taken a beating with the introduction of 2 neutral umpires. this is clearly evident, with our inability to beat NewZealand, England (in previous tour) Pakistan and South Africa. You might want to check, how much of Harbhajan's 32 wickets in epic series of 2001 against Aussies were with Indian umpire standing. I clearly remember Harbhajan's desperation to dismiss McGrath in Kolkatta test for some 4 overs, then, he smartly changes end and dismiss McGrath 3rd ball. Guess what !!! LBW !!!. Remember those days, only one neutral umpire was standing. Kumble did his demolition job against Pakistan in Delhi test 10-64, Who was the umpire ?? you are right in pointing out Harbhajan's lack of effectiveness in India, Post 2001, possibly a factor

  • POSTED BY abhijithsimha on | December 18, 2008, 8:05 GMT

    Excellent article.... Harbhajan has to be one of the most defensive spinner's the world has ever seen, though he behaves radically differently when he is not holding the ball. I feel he is not even the best off-spinner in the team, Sehwag bowls the off-spinning deliveries much better than what Harbhajan is doing at the moment. To be the No.1 team in world Team India will have to quickly part ways with this mediocre bowler in Harbhajan, and get a more aggressive one, be it a changed Harbhajan or some body like Piyush Chawla (who always tries to flight the ball nad pick up wickets).

  • POSTED BY Yeshu on | December 18, 2008, 8:11 GMT

    dont compare kumble with anybody in world hez genuis

  • POSTED BY ZICO on | December 18, 2008, 8:22 GMT

    I don't know why the selectors keep turning a blind eye towards Murali Kartik. I mean he's doing a splendid job overseas, yet india keep looking to inexperienced spinners like chawla and ojha. Age might be one criterion but kumble played cricket till he was 38, so really that shouldn't matter...

  • POSTED BY aditya87 on | December 18, 2008, 8:55 GMT

    Two reasons why Indian spinners have become less effective on the subcontinent: one is that pitches have flattened out, and two is that other teams have started to adapt better. I'm sure someone like Murali Kartik or Pragyan Ojha deserves a place in the side. But it disrupts the combination...ideally you want a leggie and an offspinner/left arm spinner.

  • POSTED BY snarge on | December 18, 2008, 9:18 GMT

    Don't talk about anyone running off crying to the ICC over the pitch for the 2004 Bombay Test, stupid. It was the Indians who were admitting the conditions were disgraceful. The Australians reacted very moderately to the whole thing.

  • POSTED BY mramacha on | December 18, 2008, 9:32 GMT

    This article is something really serious. Even i felt the same after wathching last few test played in india. Harbajan is totally ineffective in indian conditions, then what will be his performance outside India. This is time for the selectors to do a soul search. Bring in new comers and try to explore as much possibilities. I dont understand why Ohja is not exploring. Why he is not ready for test cricket. Was tendulkar ready for test cricket at the age of 17? So as the case of Kumble? Catch them young? that will save the Indian cricket and what india is famous for. Otherwise, in the future tests in india will have only one result in these flat pitches. "Draw"

  • POSTED BY mohit_kabra on | December 18, 2008, 9:48 GMT

    your article exactly mirrors my thoughts exactly.. i feel harbhajan's variations have become (quite paradoxailly)very repetitive. he is very talented as far as accuracy is concerned, but his line of attack once he goes for some or doesnt get a wicket early on is middle and leg, and his trajectory flatten. once in a while he does adjust his pace very well (most recently in a one dayer against england when he took wikets as well as choked the runs after england had got off to a flier) which shows what a bloody good bowler he can be. the skeptic in me feels that this is the bad effect of oneday and t20 cricket.harbhajan has to reinvent himself and fast bcoz if the poms can play him comfortably..then so can anyone else..!

  • POSTED BY TheDoctor394 on | December 18, 2008, 10:06 GMT

    I can only think of one Harbhajan LBW in that 2001 series that was not out, and I've watched the highlights a few times. Overall, the umpiring was very good, and did not favour any particular bowler.

  • POSTED BY mrgupta on | December 18, 2008, 10:21 GMT

    Very well written. It sounds so true that ever since Kumble had lost his magic few years ago team India has looked second grade in Spin dept. Its mostly been the seamers who have dominated the Indian wins whether it be Home or away. Bhajji is nowhere near his best and also not by any standards a world class bowler today and Mishra is only learning. With Zak and Ishant in our bowling and Irfan, Munaf & Sree waiting India can boast of a bright future for fast bowling but same cant be said abt the spin. With India doing so well with their seamers imagine what they could do if they have one of the spinners emerging as a world class bowler. I hope Bhajji can get back to his old days and Mishra/ Chawla/ Ojha can live upto their Talent