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June 19, 2006
Harbhajan Singh, who was `rested' for the first two Tests of the series felt that his inclusion wouldn't have ensured India victory. "I actually was only half-fit for the second Test," Harbhajan told Press Trust of India. "Still it was a game in which we distinguished ourselves and but for rain would have surely ended up as winners."
"Ifs and buts are best left on the coffee table. It's how you do on the field which matters," he added. Harbhajan admitted that the pitch in St Lucia did interest him. "It was helping spinners like a few [pitches] do back home. The top surface had crumbled pretty early in the match."
West Indies forced a draw in the first Test in Antigua, after India were frustrated by the last wicket partnership between Fidel Edwards and Corey Collymore. In the rain-shortened second Test, Indian bowlers succeeded in taking only seven West Indian wickets in the second innings after forcing them to follow-on.
Harbhajan believed that pitches in the Caribbean do offer grip and turn to spinners. "I do remember the last time I played in Sabina Park in 2002. I had eight wickets in all in the Test, five in one and three in the second innings."
He also praised Virender Sehwag, who in Harbhajan's absence might be a fair offspin prospect for India, having taken eight wickets at 19 in the two Tests. "Even at under-19 level, Veeru [Sehwag] had the ability to be a good spinner. The one thing I asked him to stick to was to bowl his off-spinners in an area on or outside the off stump. It's difficult to hit that line. Fortunately for him, he consistently bowled a good line and length during the Test.
"He was keen to know how to bowl a floater, a delivery which holds its line and moves away slightly." Sehwag nearly trapped Dwayne Bravo, the West Indies allrounder, with such a delivery in the second Test and even though he didn't win the appeal, Harbhajan agreed that he was a quick learner, for the ball had the batsman look quite out of his depth.
Of Brian Lara, Harbhajan said, "He is a good batsman and you don't need me to tell it to you. But if he is a good batsman, I am also a good bowler. It can be an engrossing contest." The third Test begins on June 22 in St Kitts.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graeme Smith was the last of South Africa's old guard. The roots of the new one need to grow deeper