Paul Harris, South Africa's left-arm spinner, has spoken out against the criticism spinners get in his country if they don't perform to expectations. Harris, whose four wickets played an important role in the innings victory against India in Nagpur, said the negative press in the recent home series against England had upset him.
Harris began the four-Test series with a five-wicket haul in Centurion but he took only four wickets in the next two games. He was dropped for the final game at the Wanderers, which South Africa won to square the series 1-1.
"South African spinners are always under the spotlight and I thought my treatment was a little harsh," Harris told Supercricket. "I took a five-for in the first Test against England (at Centurion) and then two Tests later everyone's calling for me to be dropped. It was a bit disappointing considering what I have done for the team in the last few years, the results I have produced.
"England played me well and I lost some consistency, which irritated me. In fact, it really upset me."
In the Nagpur Test, Harris sparked India's collapse in the first innings when he foxed MS Dhoni with sharp turn from the rough from over the wicket. Dhoni shaped to leave the ball but it lobbed off his glove to the keeper. In the second innings, he got the vital wicket of Sachin Tendulkar, bowled while trying to sweep. Harris said the strategy of bowling on the rough outside the leg stump was paying off.
"It's probably not the most fashionable plan, but frustrating them out was the key. It's more a patience game, but the Indian batsmen have big egos against spin," Harris said. "They will kick it away for five overs but then try something in the sixth over. You know they're going to come at you, especially because of all the media hype.
"My strengths are consistency and patience, and I get a bit of bounce. My job is to keep the batsmen quiet, keep it as tight as possible and make it hard for them to score. My skill is being able to bowl over the wicket. It's something you have to learn if you're going to do well in Test cricket. It wouldn't be your first-choice line of attack and if the pitch is doing a lot you'd go around the wicket. But going over, they don't get runs and you get the odd wicket. Getting a batsman out caught at deep square leg is as good as having him caught at slip."
He said he wasn't aware the Indians were practicing the leg-stump line in Nagpur. Were they? That's a surprise," he told DNA. "But look, they could not score off me because of the situation. You can't bat for three days under pressure. They are known to be aggressive. I would imagine they would be a bit more aggressive in their planning."
However, the bigger matchwinner was Dale Steyn, who took ten wickets. "It was Dale Steyn's Test match. He showed how good he is and it was pretty spectacular taking 10 wickets on that deck," he said. "He makes the spinner's job easier, because I'm talking to the batsmen, telling them that if they don't come after me, Dale's going to take their heads off later on."
The tour was preceded by the drama of coach Mickey Arthur's sudden resignation and the revamping of the selection panel. Harris said that contrary to predictions that the off-field events would distract the team on tour, it only made them a closer, fighting unit.
"I hold Mickey in the very highest esteem, he was the guy who gave me a chance and backed me. He's up there with the best coaches and a champion man, he's sent me about a million text messages since we've been in India," Harris said.
"But it's probably true that a change is as good as a holiday and it's meant the players are now trying to impress the new management, you can see it in the intensity. When we are apprehensive about something, we stick together, it's a great South African trait. The boys are a lot closer, we're all real good mates and that's made the new management's job easier. I have to say Corrie van Zyl (the new coach) has been very good and Kepler Wessels (batting consultant) has been superb."