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Former India batsman and captain

A great spinner who could become a titan

Harbhajan Singh has done wonderfully well for India but his legacy will be determined by how he deals with his current slump

Rahul Dravid

February 22, 2013

Comments: 94 | Text size: A | A

Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh have a word, Mohali, October 16, 2008
Harbhajan now finds himself in much the same situation that Anil Kumble did when Harbhajan came into the India side © AFP
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Harbhajan Singh's 100th Test match is a terrific milestone, one that defines his ability, his class and his longevity. He must belong to any list of cricketers credited for ensuring that India enjoyed a successful decade in the 2000s because he played an important role in making the team a force in world cricket. He is one of the great spinners produced by Indian cricket, and I believe he can go on to become a titan.

The series against Australia in 2001 is often considered the starting point of his career, but the first time I saw him bowl beautifully was in the one-off Test against Zimbabwe in Harare in 1998.

India may have lost that match but it was hard to miss the skinny offspinner bowling alongside Anil Kumble. Harbhajan was shy and quiet then, but he wasn't afraid to compete. You could see his competitive fire was always stoked. He had that extra bounce and zip off the wicket. It was his X-factor, and it told you that he could do well.

Harbhajan, now about to play his 100th Test match, is at an interesting point in his career. He is not so skinny and is far from being a teenager, but you know he will still compete. Before the series against Australia begins, let's stand up and applaud what he has achieved.

Harbhajan is very much a modern offspinner. His strengths have been pace through the air and biting bounce off the wicket, and they have brought him success.

It is not easy to be an Indian spinner these days. There's such a great history of spin in the country that a young spinner always seems to get compared to a similar kind of bowler from an earlier generation, which is not quite fair because each spinner is unique. In comparing him to Erapalli Prasanna, Harbhajan has been expected to be something he isn't or simply cannot be; the two played in different times. All through his career Harbhajan was told that his dismissals were not "classical" off spinner's wickets. At the end of the day, particularly today, I think he can say, "Look, I've got 400 wickets, and wickets are wickets."

To have played 100 Tests for India is proof of both effort and determination, and Harbhajan has overcome many obstacles in getting this far. Between the time he made his debut for India and his 2001 breakout series, he ran into trouble at the NCA, had difficulties with his action, was dropped from the team, and lost his father, which made him the sole earning member of his family at 20. I remember talking to him about that time, and he told me that he had thought of migrating to the US and earning a livelihood driving trucks.

Thankfully for him and for Indian cricket, that didn't happen. When he turned up to bowl at the camp conducted by our new coach John Wright before that Australia series, Harbhajan was clearly the standout spinner. It took some convincing by the team management and the senior players for the selectors to pick him for the side game versus the Aussies in Nagpur. He took five wickets in that match, including the top three Australians in the second innings and was picked again for India.

He hasn't looked back since - though the last few years have been tough for him. In a way he is at the same stage of his career as Anil was when Harbhajan came onto the scene. It became hell for captains like Sourav and myself to have to choose between them. Sometimes Anil missed out and sometimes Harbhajan did. Credit to both of them and their personalities that they were able to manage that competition and remain very respectful and friendly to each other throughout their careers.

Anil responded to Harbhajan's presence like a champion and became a giant. Harbhajan will remember that, and the challenge of having a young rival like Ashwin, if handled right, could take him to another level. Harbhajan has to respond to this new and unusual situation he faces with his traditional fight as well as a sense of statesmanship.

There's also another role that he can take on now, that of elder guide and mentor to the young bowlers in the team. Zaheer is not in the side anymore and the bowlers need a leader. If Harbhajan can take on that role, it will automatically lead to a change in his approach to the game. It will mean expanding the range of his skill, which could give his career a second wind. He must do what Anil did: raise his game outside the country.

 
 
All through his career Harbhajan was told that his dismissals were not "classical" off spinner's wickets. Today I think he can say, "Look, I've got 400 wickets, and wickets are wickets"
 

Harbhajan has had outstanding spells outside the subcontinent but not consistently enough. He bowled beautifully well on a turning track in Jamaica to win India a Test match in 2006, and then in Durban, 2010-11. He has bowled well all over the world, but it has been in spells rather than as a consistent effort across matches. Hopefully he will play more games for India and from now he will be judged on his ability to carry the Indian attack outside the subcontinent.

As his captain and a senior team-mate, I understood that Harbhajan is his own person, one who doesn't take to authority very well. I never had a problem with him, though; you just had to be sure you pushed him in the right direction. What you did know as his leader was that he would always give his best on the field and wouldn't hold back.

If I have one regret regarding him during my captaincy, it's that we didn't pick him in the Test match in Cape Town in 2006. It was 1-1. We had played three quicks and one spinner in the series until then and we stuck to the same policy and played Munaf Patel at Newlands, but he got injured and the track turned. If we had played Harbhajan with Anil, we would have given ourselves a great chance to win the match and the series, specially considering that we won the toss. That was one that got away and it was enormous.

Yes, there are times when Harbhajan and I might not have agreed on certain things, and there have been challenges in our relationship, but I know there has always been respect on both sides. There is a side of his personality that is little known or advertised. When I retired, he sent me a card with a photograph of the 1998 team and some very nice words. It was thoughtful and I remember it.

Harbhajan deserves to enjoy his 100th Test. It is reward for a lot of hard work, pain and sacrifice. He is entitled to give himself a pat on the back when he steps on the field.

He has played a huge part in Indian cricket but more awaits him. He must show us the best of his skill again, be a mentor to the next generation of young spinners and show them that the old guys usually have all the answers. Go for it, Bhaj.

Rahul Dravid scored over 24,000 international runs for India between 1996 and 2012

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Posted by   on (March 10, 2014, 10:44 GMT)

bajji is not a normal bowler...he is much better than the current Indian off spinner Ashwin... he has mastered the art of doosra

Posted by   on (February 25, 2013, 0:59 GMT)

its time to justyfy his spot in the team in 2nd innings. If he manange to win the test match, it will be most satisfy 100th test for him....good luck....

Posted by heartbreakerz on (February 24, 2013, 21:22 GMT)

harbhajan is an avg spinner n he was never a great one, he is still remembered only for that one series which happened 12 yrs ago n after that he has done nothing extraordinary

Posted by Natx on (February 24, 2013, 18:45 GMT)

Titan? Sorry Rahul. It's nice of you writing something about your old team mate. But he is 1/100'th of the 2001 harbhajan. Let's be courteous and thank his valuable services and as a token offer him to play the 100th test as a mark of respect. Beyond that, based on his performance over the last 2 years, he doesn't deserve a place in either test or one-day cricket. Every average Indian cricket fan knows this. So stop lobbying for him.

Posted by Vilander on (February 24, 2013, 16:56 GMT)

i think the term 'great player' has to be used carefully so not to diminish the value of it. Harbhajan was very good at his peak, but not great.

Posted by Budhaiya on (February 24, 2013, 12:53 GMT)

After assessing the performance of Bhajji in the 1st Test,I have come to the conclusion that the appropriate title to this article must be" A great spinner who COULD HAVE become a titan but..........."

Posted by   on (February 24, 2013, 10:39 GMT)

Harbhajan Singh was never a great bowler but a high quality world class performer who was at his best just short of being a great.

Posted by ProdigyA on (February 24, 2013, 3:42 GMT)

A nice little tribute from a great man to a great fighter. So at least now can we call it a day Bhaj.

Posted by   on (February 24, 2013, 3:36 GMT)

Rahul Dravid needs to understand that even the Indian Cricket fans have moved on a bit from the times they had nothing, but, respect (psuedo respect, that is) even for a non performing past great or not so great.

If Dravid does not get this quickly, he will become a dinosaur soon. Generally retired cricketers take atleast 10 years from their retirement to become Dinosaurs (Exception is N Harvey, who is a born Dinosaur). Going by that Dravid is in too much of a hurry to attain Dinisaurdom.

Remember your batting Jammy. Take your time.

Posted by rocket123 on (February 23, 2013, 22:53 GMT)

I have a great deal of respect for "The Wall". I always liked to watch him more than any other Indian cricketer because I have always believed that it was he who provided the nucleus and glue to the Indian batting abroad and made it competitive and played the most valuable innings of Indian cricket history such as 278, 180, 232, and 217 which were phenomenal in either winning or draw against good, ferocious and spin bowling attacks. But I will have to disagree here because his opinion is not based upon facts. It is a good thing to support a fellow Indian player if facts are present to reasonably make others believe so. But here the facts are otherwise. Both Harbajan and Kumble are good but by no standards they can ever be deemed excellent or great. They have never performed reasonably well outside subcontinent and that is only in India. Kumble's avg is OK abroad and countrywise hoovers around 43 (tell me how is it great or even for that matter good). And, Bajji is even more???

Posted by Bakhtiar_Wain on (February 23, 2013, 15:23 GMT)

The best Harbajhan can be defined is a good spinner as he is far from great. A cursory anlaysis of his record would reveal his dismal record against top teams and outside India. The overall average and strike rate is also no way close to the real great spinners India has produced

Posted by   on (February 23, 2013, 15:17 GMT)

Harbhajan 's best days are over. He has done well and it's time that Ashwin , Ohja , Chawala & others take on the spinning mantel. Dravid is indeed graceful and does not wish to hurt sentiments .

Posted by kabe_ag7 on (February 23, 2013, 12:18 GMT)

@PSRaghu - This column was in the nature of a tribute to Harbhajan, rather than an assessment of his current form.

Posted by umairasgharbutt on (February 23, 2013, 10:52 GMT)

the great you didnt pick up a wicket :D

Posted by   on (February 23, 2013, 8:23 GMT)

The scope for an argument exists only if the topic is who is the best among the bowlers who have taken more than 400 test wickets.

However, if the topic is who is the worst among that group, there can be only one answer, Harbhajan Singh.

Posted by PSRaghu on (February 23, 2013, 8:13 GMT)

If Dravid needs to be as good a columnist as the once cricketer he was, he needs to be more factual, realistic and pragmatic about his assessment on other players capabilities. His assessment of present day Bhajji is not going to convince any learned readers wee bit. It is worthwhile to learn these aspects from columnists like Boycott, Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri etc.,

Posted by AvidCricFan on (February 23, 2013, 6:25 GMT)

I hope this potential Titan fires in the second innings. His performance in the first innings has been very ordinary. He comes across clueless and not in control of his skills. Unless that changes, once the great spinner (not Titan) is fading fast.

Posted by henchart on (February 23, 2013, 3:35 GMT)

Highly overrated that is Harbhajan Singh for you.I wonder how he and one Ajit Agarkar went on to play so many tests whereas far more talented cricketers like Jaffer,Aakash Chopra had a very very short run at the highest level.Maybe ,Dravid was asked to write nice things about Harbhajan .

Posted by Alexk400 on (February 23, 2013, 1:31 GMT)

Dravid is compassionate guy. But Harbhajan is a obsolete. He always bowled flatter and flatter last 5 years as he do not want to get hit and also because of that not much revolution on the ball. May be he is not confident at his abilities. One of Harbhajan strength is guile , he lost that long time ago. He should not be selected ever again if he goes wicketless in spinning pitch. I am also think can dravid advise dhoni to move sehwag to middle order?. He wants to but dhoni seems to not want to do it. He wants sehwag to fail so he can cut him off. Thats what going on.

Posted by   on (February 23, 2013, 1:24 GMT)

The way he bowled today (the first day of the Test), Baji should have retired.

Posted by   on (February 23, 2013, 1:09 GMT)

Rahul Dravid - brilliant then outstanding now! Classy article, doesn't hesitate in telling the truth - IMO this requires articulation and not ruthlessness!

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 23:34 GMT)

Harbajan is a good bowler, couldve been a great. But watching him yesterday made me feel like his action is all wrong, asthough it has not evolved since teenage years where his body's elasticity was strong, and his odd action could be handled by his body, but now in his 30's it feels like and looks like it places too much strain on his side and body, and looks awkward, its a shame he didn't correct his action in his mid or even early 20s because the guy has good talent and energyits not too late to correct this action with modern technology, but with so much spinning talent floating around India, and sentimental attachment to older players being pushed to the limit with tendulkar, I wish him all the best for future.,

Posted by avmd on (February 22, 2013, 22:17 GMT)

Dravid, you were a great cricketer, but not so great a writer who is trying to make an ordinary spinner to geat one and even a Titan. Please keep writing if you like to but don't quite your day job.

Posted by FieryFerg on (February 22, 2013, 21:44 GMT)

On today's evidence his competition isn't Ojha but Phil Taylor and Raymond Barneveld! Just bowling darts and not even getting the bounce he used to. Surely time to put him out to pasture. As others have pointed out, other than one freak series his record is average even on home wickets. Been a good servant for India (esp in ODIs) but his time has passed.

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (February 22, 2013, 21:43 GMT)

Rahul, you were a great batsmen, better than even Tendulkar, but I am sorry to say this - your writing is not as good. Aakash Chopra is the best writer, by a country mile. Harbhajan was great 10, or even 5 years ago. But these days he's just a defensive bowler who is scared of being hit. Parvez Rasool is the best off spinner in India today. By selecting Bhaji and Ishant Sharma our Selectors have made a fool of themselves. Shami Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Ishwar Pandey - they are all better than Ishant, and Rasool is way better than Bhaji.

Posted by inswing on (February 22, 2013, 21:37 GMT)

It is natural for a nice guy like Dravid to praise his teammate. But everyone knows that Harbhanjan was never great. He was good, and is now below average. Average of 32 and strike rate of 68 makes you just decent.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas_Atheist on (February 22, 2013, 20:50 GMT)

I guess I should change my username to Dravid_Hyperbole. Disgaree with him completely here. Sorry Rahul anna, you got your knickers in a twist here. Harbhajan was never a great to start with. There's no way he can go on to become a Titan when he wasn't even a great in the first place. He looks lost and playing just for the heck of it. Now that he played the 100th test, let's drop him and pick the much deserving Ojha. Let's drop Jadeja and pick the much deserving Rasool. Let's drop Ishant and pick the much deserving Shami. Let's drop Dhoni and pick the much deserving Dinesh Karthik or Saha. Let's drop Statchin and pick the much deserving Rahane. Let's wait for Umesh's comeback. That's my team. End of the road for Harbhajan, keeping emotions aside.

Posted by Mervo on (February 22, 2013, 20:31 GMT)

This is all rather over the top Rahul. Harbhajan has been around for a long time but to call him "great" is just not even close. He has a Test average of over 32! Look at some of those who were great, and they have averages of 10 runs/wicket less. Harbhajan is an average and enduring cricketer, whose record outside of India is poor and recent record in India is well past his best there. Some reality please Mr Dravid.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 20:09 GMT)

The great spinner who could become a titan yet to take a wicket in this match. Cant really blame on the pitch if it is working really well for Ashwin. Maybe Bhajji is not so great after all.

Posted by Dhanno on (February 22, 2013, 19:26 GMT)

Rahul came up with one or two good points in their, especially the fact that if he wants to be in team he will need to accept whatever role comes with it ( I do not necessarily agree that suddenly Ashwin is the lead guy) but the general sentiment is true: assume the role that is most beneficial for the team in a given setup. Another good point is the fact that Bhajji did well outside subcontinent only handful of times (on his own, even less so) and he would have to improve on it. Given last 2 years I do not see that happening (on field performance, off field issues, statements made while out of side). And this is where the whole premise of Bhajji is great but can be titan falls apart. Bhajji was sidekick to kumble. Bhajji was also confidence player. Once kumble was gone, his shortcomings were exposed. He could not lead the attack the way kumble did, if he went for runs, he/captain (dhoni) had no answers to the situation. That just makes him an average player and nothing more.

Posted by mukesh_LOVE.cricket on (February 22, 2013, 18:28 GMT)

While i have only respect for Rahul dravid , a gentleman man and a legend of Indian batting , i don't understand why he chose a caption like this for the article , Harbhajan is (was) a good bowler , but he never was in the league of 'GREATS' let alone being called a 'TITAN' and going by his current form i don't think he will be having another peak in his career graph , What exactly has he done in domestic cricket after being dropped to be selected ?? and what wrong has Ojha done to be dropped ??!!

Posted by Prakmca on (February 22, 2013, 18:10 GMT)

Harbajan is glorified spinner. He doesn't deserver this. Except that 32 wickets against Australia, nothing big he achieved after that.

Totally waste selection into this squad, where bowled pathetically on Day 1. India could have bundled Australia if they had played Ohja instead of Harbajan.

Time for him to RETIRE and give way for performing youngsters.

Posted by laxmanrules on (February 22, 2013, 17:06 GMT)

Congratulations to Harbhajan for playing a hundred tests. He has had a long and fruitful career and will be remembered among the better spinners India produced.

All of that though,is in the past. I feel for Ojha as Bhajji is now hampering the development of a very good spin partnership of Ashwin and Ojha for the future. More than 80 wickets between them in three home series. The author of this article and his illustrious partner VVS both left cricket in order to not hamper the development of Kohli and Pujara, respectively. Dravid would have certainly been picked and Laxman was in the squad for the NZ tour. Time for Harbhajan to take a leaf out of their book and follow them.

Lest, go back to Ranji and make his way back into the team based solely on performance and not press statements. Every statement Bhajji has given after being dropped has been about playing for India and feeling good about his bowling. However, the figures are conspicuously missing. Feel bad for Ojha.

Posted by Shan156 on (February 22, 2013, 17:06 GMT)

I still remember 2003 WC final when Harbhajan was preferred over Kumble, picked up 2 wickets but went for plenty and India lost the game. Not suggesting that India would have won had Kumble played. In fact, the Aussies were in such a red hot streak that India's best XI ever would have been unable to stop them. But, I thought Kumble deserved to play given his skill, lion-hearted efforts, and experience. The Indian selectors were ruthless then. However, it looks like Harbhajan was preferred over Ojha only so he could play his 100th test. I thought it was a good selection given his record against Aus. but didn't expect it to be at the expense of Ojha. He looked very ordinary in the first day and was bowling himself out of future selections. Unless he does something dramatic in the 2nd innings, we should have seen the last of Harbhajan in tests.

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (February 22, 2013, 17:01 GMT)

I agree with the entire article, but not the title. Harbhajan has been a "good" bowler for India, but calling him a "great" is stretching it a bit. I have huge respect for Rahul Dravid. But I reckon, if you go with the title of this article, he is wrong in his assessment of Harbhajan. Bhajji was a better bowler when bowling alongside Kumble. Kumble used to bottle-up one end and Bhajji benefited a lot from that. However, once Kumble retired he struggled to carry the Indian spin bowling on his shoulders. A lot of one-day cricket also affected his bowling. His line of attack changed. Instead of bowling slightly outside off (which is generally a good line for an off-spinner in Test cricket), he started bowling more middle-and-leg. Congratulations to Bhajji on his 100th Test though.

Posted by king_julien on (February 22, 2013, 16:56 GMT)

As the joker says"Its about sending a message", and BCCI has never sent the right message.

The best bowler of the last series is made to sit out for a so called stalwart. The message is clear, we do not want performers...we want players with better fan following..so that BCCI can derive more money. Keep struggling all the Ojhs, Tiwaris, Rayudus, Badris...most of you won't even get to play.

Picking an eternal excuse maker (In his latest interview) On India loss to England, " We should not always blame the pitches for out bad performance"

In same interview on his performance, "Domestic pitches do not give the spinners any advantage and even on the last day, they (I) struggled to get wickets. That could be a reason why the number of wickets I've taken is not in the high 30s or 40s"(he picked 16)

If ashwin was not playing in this match...this pitch too would have been compared to a highway as Bhajji was not getting any spin here too.

Posted by m812 on (February 22, 2013, 16:40 GMT)

" A lot of Harbhajan's success was due to the pressure created by Kumble from the other end. He would have struggled otherwise" . This is so absolutely TRUE. Bhajji was and is a mediocre bowler ( Even Sachin or Raina spin the ball more) . His luck was great that he had chance to feed of pressure created by Kumble. Moment Kumble retired...its no surprise Bhajjis wickets graph has taken a nosedive.

Rahul is simply being too kind here.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 16:37 GMT)

That Dravid was able to praise Bhajji despite his crude remarks against Dravid when Rahul was going through a bad patch shows Rahul's greatness more than Bhajji's. Bhajji has not learnt to beat the batsman in the air. Great offspinners always flight the ball and beat the batsman in the air to get him bowled or stumped or mistime the ball for a catch. Bhajji did it once in a while but now he seems to be in ODI mode. Cruel as it seems, this match seems to have been given to him for completing 100.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 16:31 GMT)

Ever gentle, on & off the field, Rahul. This article reflects more of Dravid's character than Bhajji's effectivness as a bowler. First day's play already indicated how good he is (19 overs for 79 runs & nothing to show). this series will also be a farewell series to SRT, whose parting gift to Indian cricket will be fourth glorious series defeat (2 each away and home). I am aware hardcore SRT fans dont like this, but he is past the shelf-life. Note that almost half of the team plays for CSK, without of course the actual performers from that team:)

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 16:27 GMT)

"Harbhajan now finds himself in much the same situation that Anil Kumble did when Harbhajan came into the Indian side"

What ?

When Anil Kumble retired, he was still taking more wickets than bhajji.. bhajji didnt do much damage after that 32 wicket series against australia.

Posted by iHitWicket on (February 22, 2013, 15:21 GMT)

It's a awesome achievement for anyone, let alone a person from under privileged background like Harbhajan's to play 100 test's for India. We salute you Bhajji bhai. From being a great to becoming a titan is a mental journey few can make. Rahul, Anil, Laxman all had to toil against great adversity to become titan's of Indian cricket. Skill needs to be constantly enhanced approach adapted to situations. BUT if you don't have the basics still with you, you will go no where. Harbhajan had ample time to reflect and go back to basic talents on which he built his game. Hope he has done that and will get to execute them. It's hard for spinners today. But Anil was able to come back as a force after he was written off mid career - after batters started getting better of him (ohh we love you Jumbo for what you did). With guile and persistence his efforts paid off. Hope Bhajji's efforts also bear fruit. Roar on Tiger.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 15:19 GMT)

Unwittingly, this article turned out to be a tribute to Dravid, the columnist. Hope, he writes more often. Pleasing style, and even more pleasant insights!

Posted by The_Heavy_Ball on (February 22, 2013, 15:15 GMT)

I hugely respect Rahul Dravid, the gentleman and the cricketer, but I'm afraid he's wearing his rose-tinted spectacles here and letting personal friendship interfere with clear vision. Harbhajan was once an excellent bowler, at times verging on great, but now he is simply ordinary. He was never, and in my opinion will never be, a Titan.

As others have said, Rahul is simply being too kind here. This piece says more about Rahul Dravid (in a good way!) than it does about Harbhajan Singh.

Posted by cricket-india on (February 22, 2013, 15:07 GMT)

dravid, ever the gentleman; back to bhajji, though - i agree he needs to take leadership of the bowling unit, atleast the spin part of it. but he needs MSD's support and a clear mandate - just attack. even if the batters are aggressive and are bent on hitting out, no defensive fields and no defensive bowling should be encouraged. bhajji might go for a few runs but he'll end up getting wickets also. he needs MSD to suppot him with the direction to go for wickets even if it costs runs. against a batting side tentative against spin, bhajji should reassert his class and gain confidence that'll serve him well for the next 3-4 yrs. on the other had, bhajji has been given a longer than enough rope, and if he doesn't prform, time to drop him and go with ashiwn and ojha for the future.

Posted by tappee74 on (February 22, 2013, 13:43 GMT)

Rahul,I enjoyed reading this article.My love for cricket runs deep,it's in every blood vessel of my body.I am from Guyana and my cricket hero is Shivnarine Chanderpaul. I would say i have an excellent knowledge of this game and I admired you as a batsman.Rahul Dravid lives in the archive of the greats and so is Shiv Chanderpaul.Harbhajan is not an ordinary bowler,he is a world class performer who has the ability to demolish the best of bowlers on his day.I congratulate him on his 100th test and wish this legend the best.

Posted by agarkarno1 on (February 22, 2013, 13:29 GMT)

Congrats on Bhajji to get 400 wickets and play 100 test matches. But in the last few years, his performance is below average. The reason i could say is because great players, like Kumble, Murali at every stage of their career, honed their skills, acquired new skills to trouble the batsmen... Murali in his later stage of his career practised bowling dossras and got wickets with them... Kumble who was never a big spinner of ball, practised for proper leg breaks... Ajmal has discoverd thisra... Spinners have to bring new weapons as they grow in the era where batsmen would sort them out with more technology. I think Harbhajan is stuck at somewhere as he couldnot manage to hone new skills

Posted by Sankara on (February 22, 2013, 13:10 GMT)

Mr Dravid you are too kind and a gentleman. It is nice of you to write this way. But I beg to differ on the content. A lot of Harbhajan's success was due to the pressure created by Kumble from the other end. He would have struggled otherwise. The stark difference in his number of wickets, strike rate and runs per wicket before and after Kumble's retirement bears ample testimony to this.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 12:31 GMT)

Sad article. Indian team does not need justifications to include players and Dravid's kindness is misplaced. As has been pointed out by others in the comments above, Harbhajan is not the Harbhajan of the yesteryears. To see him struggle over the years - usually with futility - is extremely sad. But to call him him a titan has to be extreme poetic license. India deserves good bowling from its players. Ashwin and Bhupeneshwar are their future - and amazing ones at that. Harbhajan should be rested or retired.

Posted by grizzle on (February 22, 2013, 12:29 GMT)

I don't see Rahul Dravid as being an insightful commentator as regards this current crop of Indian cricketers. Yes, he has inside knowledge of the dressing room, but I think overall this is turning out to be a minus rather than a plus. I think he is pulling his punches with respect to his fellow players and the BCCI as well. Harbhajan a titan?! Come on! That he has made it back into the Indian Test team after a year of lacklustre Ranji performances is a testament to the paucity of decent bowlers on the Indian domestic circuit. On that note, did anybody see the filth sent down by Ishant and Bhuvi today? If it hadn't been for Ashwin finding a rare day of form, it would have been Sydney/Adelaide all over again.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 12:06 GMT)

Rahul Dravid always brings honesty and simplicity to whatever he does and that is true for this post too. Not everyone who plays (or happens to play) test cricket will play on for 100 tests. It is a milestone and an achievement that deserves an applause.

Posted by py0alb on (February 22, 2013, 12:04 GMT)

Its been 8 years since Harbhajan averaged under 30 in a calendar year, despite playing over half of his Test matches in the most spin friendly country on earth. 8 years is a long time to be selected on the basis of past glories. He's been a mediocre spinner a lot longer than he was ever a genuinely good spinner. 400 wickets is simply a reflection on the lack of competition for his place.

Posted by Sumanth.GK on (February 22, 2013, 11:51 GMT)

Dravid don't back this Bowler. His days are gone, He knows only bowl on legside or bowl short and wide

Posted by balajeev on (February 22, 2013, 11:50 GMT)

Great article by Rahul Dravid with some little known facts about Harbhajan. One appreciates the struggles that the offspinner has gone through and looks at him with new respect. However it is sad to see that even the normally dispassionate Dravid has got carried away by the occasion of 100 tests. I admit that it is easier to criticize in hindsight after Harbhajan's day one performance, but it only shows up the gulf between expectations and reality.

Posted by Sir.Ivor on (February 22, 2013, 11:34 GMT)

When I wrote earlier on Rahul's very dignified endorsement of Harbhajan on the eve of his 100th Test,I had not touched upon his bowling skills.Bhajji may have won some test matches for India but his spin bowling was as Dravid says founded on speed in the air and bounce of the pitch.The decisive factor lay in his competitive temperament.When one considers off spin bowling flight,drift and reasonable turn with control over these skills are non negotiable.It is based on the degree of control that an off spinner exercises over these aspects that greatness can be adjudged upon.Having seen Prasanna myself I have perhaps an image of what a great off spin bowler is all about.A wily magician who will lure a great batsman to misery and doom.Harbhajan in my opinion is for the major part of his career easy to decipher.He needs an early wicket to get that spring in his step that we have grown so used to seeing. He did not evolve as a bowler like Kumble did.Bhajji is lucky to be playing his 100th.

Posted by big_al_81 on (February 22, 2013, 11:25 GMT)

Much as I love Rahul Dravid, not just for being a true great on the field but a decent bloke off it, I have to suggest that Harbhajan's best days are long, long past. A better title would have been 'A very good spinner who will never be a titan'. He could also perhaps have grown more as a person if he'd actually respected colleagues like Dravid a bit more!

Posted by RajitD on (February 22, 2013, 11:23 GMT)

Bhajji can consider himself fortunate to have played 100 tests. Upto 2010-11, he was an automatic choice. Today, he is way past his sell-by date, and it is only on his past laurels that he has got picked. There have been more illustrious players who have donned the India cap, and still not quite touched 100 tests.

Posted by vaidyar on (February 22, 2013, 11:11 GMT)

The thing I like about Dravid's writing - honesty. Great he's able to admit they didn't have a great relationship. Probably the captain who started showing him his place. And nice veiled challenge too - "same position as Kumble was at 100 tests, now show us what you got and earn that respect"

Posted by Vikas.K on (February 22, 2013, 10:53 GMT)

I think Dravid being Dravid is being very subtle here. He is saying: 1. Bhaji did great in India for a long time. 2. But never really bowled well through an entire match overseas 3. That he needs to reinvent him completely if he has to be relevant...which is another way of saying he is not good enough the way he is at present. I find that a pretty accurate assessment of Bhaji.

Posted by WinNZ on (February 22, 2013, 10:37 GMT)

While it is difficult for players to give up the fame and glory, I think it is important for them to know when to leave. The impression that we get is that this one player has used all his influence to get back into the team despite other players performing better. One hopes that the selectors don't keep pressing on with non players who are past their prime and build up the team by replacing with with younger players. These players have all had their place in the sun, enjoyed the fame and the glory. Now let them give the younger ones an opportunity and the Indian team a chance to succeed.

Posted by PSRaghu on (February 22, 2013, 10:09 GMT)

Rahul comments on Bhajji relates to the kind of bowler Bhajji was in his hay days. Those days are long over, and now Bhajji should find himself lucky to find a place in the Indian team.

Posted by josephmcc on (February 22, 2013, 9:09 GMT)

The great gladiator talks about another gladiator.It's rare.

Posted by Tigg on (February 22, 2013, 9:02 GMT)

I disagree. 100 tests for Bhaji shows the selectors unwillingness to drop a player. He's been flat for years and has got back in the side off some very uninspired domestic form. The fact that, in this test, he's been picked in stead of Ohja based off something he did when none of the current side were playing is frankly shocking.

Posted by avingodb on (February 22, 2013, 8:41 GMT)

@ESPNCricinfo I don't think Rahul Dravid needs to be introduced tp your audience! beautifully written Chamo

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 8:32 GMT)

His honeymoon period got over when Kumble retired from International cricket. Most of the wickets he took are in Anil's era when he and Zak were putting the pressure from the other end.

Posted by VGPATEL on (February 22, 2013, 8:13 GMT)

I am surprised at the poor analysis of Bhajji by Dravid. No doubt he was a worst captain for india. See today Ashwin has got 5 wickets and Bhajji has yet not open account. Unwanted importance is being given to Harbhajan. Bowlers like him is available in every nook and corner of india

Posted by bumpu on (February 22, 2013, 8:10 GMT)

An outstanding article from Rahul Dravid, the gentleman. However, seeing Bhajji bowl today I get the sneaking feeling that he has been given a chance only so that he could reach the milestone of 100 tests played. Else, why would a team leave out their most successful spinner of the previous series. The next five days will tell as to whether the emotional decision was really worth it. By the same token I think Azharuddin should be recalled just to reach the milestone of 100 tests!!!

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 7:32 GMT)

@Sajid dont know why u think INdia will be biased against Pervaiz. He is a good bowler definitely but give him time and let him for his own good play some more first class cricket and not end up like the Maninders and the Laxman Sivaramakrishnans who got early breaks but also fizzled away. Let us not start comparing already with people who have prven themselves with their longevity, abilities to redfine themselves. will put unde pressure on the youngster. Iam sure he will be his own champion and break into the indian team soon.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 7:16 GMT)

It's time for Pervaiz Rasool to come forward as he is young and most talented spinner. I guess he will become much better spinner than Harbhajan and Kumble. He is the future of spin if india don't go biased against him.

Posted by dms1972 on (February 22, 2013, 6:53 GMT)

A very good bowler and the major reason why Ricky Ponting's record in India is not nearly as good as it could have been.

Posted by veerakannadiga on (February 22, 2013, 6:46 GMT)

great article as usual RD. we have come to expect that. nothing less. It really takes guts to own up that there were times when Harbhajan & RD did n't agree on certain things. I still remember, when RD floored a catch ,(when RD was going through a lean patch), Bajji was heard saying to Dhoni, ( via stump mic) "ab batting ke saath fielding be bhul gaye". Yet RD in this article, just wishes Harbhajan well, shows the type of human being he is . Love you RD. Was, will & forever be your fan. AMEN...from a loyal Dravid fan.

Posted by Paddy789 on (February 22, 2013, 6:35 GMT)

Harbhajan has everything in his hand, either he can make or break it is upto him, Dhoni's captaincy is on a bad patch now and if this series doesn't go his way he may loose the captaincy. Harbhajan has 100 games in his pocket and i think its too early for Virat to lead the team. If he shows the true passion that he is known for who knows unlike Anil Kumble he may lead the side till the time his successor is ready for the task. Bhajji please think over it, you have the potential to do it.

Posted by Ranta on (February 22, 2013, 6:19 GMT)

Interesting article, There is challenge thrown on not just Bhajji, But also for Viru, Zaheer & even Yuvraj. They were youngsters when Rahul, VVS, Anil & Dada were on there way to greatness. Now all of them have their own legacy, All of these younger players were part of it in some way or the other. It has come on these guys to leave a legacy, Remains to be seen how these cricketers go about things. They have been in between for long. Its time to raise their game to next level and go down in history as greats. What is good is they are now mature heads. Its interesting times up ahead. Except for viru all of these guys are ready to adept as per requirement of time. Read Zak saying he wants to come back as better all round cricketer, and wanted time away to work on it. He is aware of his weakness or hurdles & accepts them and wants to work on it. So is the case with bhajji & Yuvi. Good signs for India. Young brats are responsible mature cricketers now. Something for Rohit to learn.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 6:15 GMT)

I would sincerely like to disagree with you here. Harbhajan palying his 100th test match is more out of compulsion than his ability to take wickets. I mean where do we see a player playing his 100th test match with an average of 32 and half. If this would have been in Australia or South Africa, his career might have been curtailed to 25 to 30 test matches.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 6:14 GMT)

The one outstanding line in this article is the footnote - "Rahul Dravid scored over 24,000 international runs for India between 1996 and 2012". Valid points by dravid.

Posted by lizardkingg on (February 22, 2013, 6:00 GMT)

A great piece by Mr.Dravid. Rahul Dravid shows his true sportsperson qualities in this article. Eventhough i am not a big Harbhajan fan but still i realise playing 100 tests is a great feat. for any cricketer. Good Luck Bhajji

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 5:53 GMT)

very nice article from a true gentleman about another!

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 5:46 GMT)

Dear Rahul Dravid,

If I have ever believed that there is a gentleman cricketer on this earth, I have always considered it to be you. This article of your on Harbhajan Singh shows that you are a great person with lots of vision and I truly wish that BCCI utilises that skill of yours so that they can build the strong team for the future.

Well done Mr. Dravid. I agree with whatever you said about Bhajji.

Best regards Ajeet Singh

Posted by IG123 on (February 22, 2013, 5:43 GMT)

Harbhajan a 'great' spinner? Seriously? I wouldn't call him that. Sure he's had a couple of great series at home, but he's been inconsistent for years and he's been mediocre outside India.

Posted by Sir.Ivor on (February 22, 2013, 5:20 GMT)

A fine tribute from a legend to his former team mate.In terms of statistics of achievement over his career, Harbhajan has over 400 wickets to show. That is just next to Anil Kumble even if there is a gap of over 200 odd wickets between him and Anil. Harbhajan was seen as the next great Indian spin bowler on the strength of his phenomenal success against the all conquering Australians under Steve Waugh.And since it coincided with the great Indian turnaround story authored by the inimitable Ganguly Harbhajan probably got a due more than he deserved for the rest of his career.He was without doubt one of the country's best spin bowlers who had proved to be a big match winner against Australia more than anyone else.This probably added to his lustre since Australia was the World Champions for most of Bhajji's career span.But in assessing his greatness it is not just about the number of wickets he has taken.It is skills of an off spinner in which he pales before the likes Prasanna and Ajmal.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 5:05 GMT)

Just feel Rahul Dravid will remain a wall even as a writer. Dont be surprised by a nickname THE WRITER'S WALL! Former captains critiques may yet bring him some much needed positivity! FAREFORWARD INDIA!

Posted by slip_catcher on (February 22, 2013, 4:57 GMT)

Rahul, I admire your writing and the way you positively present facts. Thanks for the insider information as well. We learn from what and how you say/do things. Article on Ricky, Dhoni now Bhajji have been superb. I would love to have a few more on Sourav, Imran Khan, Sachin, Anil Kumble, VVS, Lara, why you were so good in England and yourself in general.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 4:54 GMT)

Bhajji is a champion bowler and he can look up to guys like Rahul and Anil to revitalise his career. Another gem from a flawless Dravid.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 4:38 GMT)

Great luck...Turbonator....

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 4:36 GMT)

Great writing! One of the best in Cricinfo!

Posted by Samar_Singh on (February 22, 2013, 4:18 GMT)

Over exaggerated Bhajji .. The worst to take 400 wickets.. This shows how poor is the Indian bowling department..

Posted by sramesh_74 on (February 22, 2013, 4:08 GMT)

Has Bishen Singh Bedi read this???

Posted by wc1992 on (February 22, 2013, 3:59 GMT)

Oh please "great spinner" its rahul still batting for his team .......a really poor title and most over rated player in the history of the game .... Rahul has lost all the respect i had for him

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 3:54 GMT)

Very well written Rahul!! :) :) 'Harbhajan deserves to enjoy his 100th Test. It is reward for a lot of hard work, pain and sacrifice. He is entitled to give himself a pat on the back when he steps on the field.' - Great lines!! :) :)

Surely Bhajji is a crucial part of Indian cricket and his return will be watched by all of us.

Posted by sameer997 on (February 22, 2013, 3:53 GMT)

Great tribute, all these articles about Harbhajan make me feel as though he will be retiring??

Posted by 123cric on (February 22, 2013, 3:41 GMT)

Harbhajan has few decent series at home but his away record is nothing to talk about. No doubt he has got the talent but may be not the right attitude. Anyways 100 test is a milestone and he deserves kudos for the same. Hope Bhajji matures as an individual and the same is reflected in his bowling too.

Posted by   on (February 22, 2013, 3:34 GMT)

Rahul , you are just brilliant ! The way you described Harbhajan's ups and downs are simply terrific . Proud to be an Indian and Proud to say I have seen Rahul Dravid Batting and talking in my era !

Posted by LillianThomson on (February 22, 2013, 3:26 GMT)

Congratulations to him, but I may well be the only person in Australia to have such sentiments.

My compatriots will never forgive or forget Monkeygate, both in terms of he disputed events and the changing testimony of one of Harbhajan's senior team-mates.

It is a shadow over his career that no landmark can ever erase.

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