Harbhajan Singh has criticised the Hyderabad pitch that was prepared for India's second Test against New Zealand, which offered no help to the fast bowlers or spinners and produced a draw, saying India is developing a reputation for batsmen-friendly pitches.
"These days foreign teams come to India secure in the knowledge that it is the best place to get runs," he told the Times of India. "Gary Kirsten told me that when he came to play a Test series in India, the best place to bat was as an opener, because once the spinners came on, batting became difficult. But now, every wicket has been re-laid and the black soil has made the wickets pretty firm. It just doesn't turn and the wicket plays well even on the final day.''
He was critical of the curator, saying he "deserves to be given the contract to build national highways''.
Harbhajan has had more success with the bat than the ball in the series, having scored back-to-back centuries but taken just six wickets in the first two Tests. In the Hyderabad Test, he and Sreesanth put together a 105-run partnership for the last wicket in India's first innings, which Harbhajan thinks signifies how flat the wicket was. "Even our No. 11 was playing like Sachin Tendulkar," he said. "So we should give all the credit to the groundsmen.''
India's bowlers have failed to take 20 wickets in each of the two Test matches and India captain MS Dhoni had blamed the pitches for failing to produce results and said teams would "have to play 10 days" to get a result.
Harbhajan said flat pitches had become a recurring problem in Test series in India. "I can't remember the last time I bowled on a turning track where the ball spun and bounced," he said. "I think Kanpur was the last and we got the desired result against South Africa in 2008. I don't suggest we play on bad wickets. But we should play to our strength, and our strength, over the years, has been spin bowling."
India go into the deciding Test at Nagpur, on Saturday, without Zaheer Khan, which will increase the pressure on Harbhajan to spearhead the attack. Harbhajan's centuries have elicited suggestions he is turning into an allrounder, but his bowling has received criticism from some quarters. "I think I have bowled well in the last two Tests," he said. "But the way our critics think, you bowl well only when you take wickets. When I took four wickets in the first innings in Hyderabad, I bowled well. But on the final day, when I took just one wicket, I was in the line of fire. Some days, I can bowl a few full tosses and get five wickets. Figures do not always do justice.''
India came into the series ranked No.1 in the ICC Test rankings, with New Zealand at No.8, and having recently beaten Australia 2-0 at home, anything less than a win in Nagpur would be considered a disappointment. But Harbhajan still has his hopes up. "Hopefully, Sachin Tendulkar will get his 50th Test hundred, I'll get another hundred and pick up 7 to 8 wickets and India will win.''