Harbhajan Singh has made a call against using rank turners in the three-match Test series between India and New Zealand. He said there may not be any long-term gains in winning matches in three days, with the batsmen being short-changed and the spinners unable to get a proper assessment of their skills.
Speaking to PTI in Delhi, where the New Zealanders played their only practice match ahead of the Kanpur Test, Harbhajan believed a surface offering excessive help to spinners could backfire on India.
"I can tell you if we go for rank turners, it can boomerang on us like [in the] World T20 in Nagpur. Mitch Santner and Ish Sodhi could prove to be a handful," he said. "But if we can produce sporting pitch where our batsmen can score 400 runs if batting first, New Zealand can't beat us. Man to man, we are a better unit. Even if we prepare sporting tracks, we can win 3-0."
Teams coming to the subcontinent would expect to be put under pressure by the turning ball, but in the most recent series in India, South Africa found themselves playing on pitches that misbehaved even on the first day. Nagpur received an official warning from the ICC for the surface that was prepared for the third Test of that series. It ended in three days with 33 of the 40 wickets taken by spinners and no one making a fifty.
"Are we gaining anything by winning inside two and half to three days?" Harbhajan asked. "Are we also being fair to our batsmen who struggled against South African spinners during last home series?
"You can get wickets but there are times when the bowler doesn't even know where the ball will land and which direction it goes. You don't know which one would turn and which one would jump. That's why I am stressing on good pitches where skill comes into play."
Harbhajan also sympathised with the Indian fast bowlers when conditions are such that "you need spin in the first hour".
"People criticise Ishant [Sharma] for having played nearly 70 Test matches  with barely 200-plus  wickets. But has anyone cared to find out how many overs Ishant had bowled in India? And how many overs with new ball and how many with old one which reverses?" Harbhajan said. "And why Ishant has not bowled much is because of having such wickets where you need spin in first hour. If he doesn't get to bowl with the new ball when the seam is hard and new, then we are being unfair to Ishant, who is such a workhorse. If we can make a statement of intent in this series, it will only help us when we travel abroad next time.
"I believe both Anil [Kumble, the India coach] bhai and Virat [Kohli, the Test captain] are positive people, who would like play on good Test pitches, where the results are decided on fourth evening or by fifth day post lunch session."