Harbhajan Singh, India's leading spinner, has come in for criticism after a lacklustre showing during the defeat in Nagpur, but he defended his performance in a Test where he was outbowled by South African left-arm spinner Paul Harris. After returning figures of 2 for 166, with only one maiden in 46 overs, Harbhajan praised the manner in which South Africa batted.

"You can't really take five wickets every day," he told the Hindustan Times on Wednesday. "They (the South Africans) have come here to play, they aren't here on holiday. They are among the best in the world, and have played superbly, you can't take that away from them, give them that credit."

Despite being the top wicket-taker in the home series against Sri Lanka late last year, a listless tour of Bangladesh followed by the ineffectiveness in Nagpur has put Harbhajan, India's most successful offspinner with over 300 Test wickets, under pressure. "I have the support of my team and frankly, that's what matters, not what anyone says," he said. "I know myself, I know what I need to do. I've performed very well over time and the statistics, the records reflect that, that's for everyone to see."

Anil Kumble, the senior spinner in the Indian team for much of Harbhajan's career, said he expected a much-improved performance in Kolkata. "I am confident that if he gets some early wickets, he will be a different bowler," he told the Times of India. "It's only a matter of confidence ... Kolkata has been a favourite ground for Harbhajan and I am confident he is going to get back to his old way of picking wickets."

India's hold on the No. 1 Test ranking is shaky after the embarrassing loss in Nagpur, and though the new-look batting flopped in both innings, there was plenty of concern over the bowling, which despite being at full strength allowed South Africa to pile up 558 for 6. Unless the home side win the second Test in Kolkata, starting Sunday, South Africa will win the series and reclaim top spot in the ICC rankings.