Harbhajan Singh who became the 11th man in history of the game to take 400 wickets a couple of days ago, is probably one of the most criticized bowlers in the world. With Warne, the public accepted his childish behavior and the controversies along with his genius. Whereas Harbhajan who had his fair share of controversies still has a question mark next to his name, and his ability with the ball has always been under a shadow of doubt.
|Bhajji's 400th wicket!|
Half the world is convinced that Harbhajan Singh is an exceptional spinner who is yet to leap over the distance from being a good bower to becoming a great bowler. While there's the other half who refute the former's claims saying that Harbhajan is a decent spinner who does well at home where the pitches suit him. And that has been the kind of mixed reactions and recognition that Harbhajan has received in the 14 years he has played for India.
His greatness has never been stamped and the world sees him with a question mark. What is my view on this? It's simple. Harbhajan Singh is definitely beyond any shadow of doubt one of the premier spinners in modern day cricket. I would only rate Daniel Vettori among the spinners who still play cricket above Harbhajan. Even Swann who has been doing exceptionally well for England and always manages to get a break through in his very first over is second to Harbhajan Singh in my book. I rate Harbhajan Singh highly and I've never seen anyone else who can spin the ball as much as he does except for Muralitharan and Warne. John Wright once remarked that Harbhajan can turn an onion on ice.
|Harbhajan Singh - Any captain's ideal weapon|
If anyone doubts the turbanator's skill, I just show them the 2001 India versus Australia series when he became a star over night. However ever since that dream start, his career has been on highs and lows. Harbhajan who has managed to trouble the best with his flight, dip, and spin, often has found himself struggling for wickets. From January 2006 till February 2007 he managed to pick up only 37 wickets at an average of 52 in 13 matches. It was during this, when he went wicket-less in a series for the first and only time in his career. However those days are long gone as he came back strongly in 2008 picking up 63 wickets in 13 matches. Since then, he has been doing a decent job with 144 scalps to his name.
|Bhajji picked up 32 wickets against Australia in 2000-01|
Muralitharan said named Harbhajan Singh as the player who could break his record of 800 wickets. That seems a little far fetched considering that he is 31 years of age, but the point is that spin wizard Muralitaran rated Harbhajan so high. So the skill and temperament was never in doubt. It's just the ability of exceeding all those expectations and performing to his talents, that comes under scrutiny. Harbhajan Singh is a rhythm bowler, who is a different bowler when he manages to pick up a wicket early in his spell. When he does get a wicket early, he then is transfers into another realm. He bowls much slower, tosses the ball up and invokes more revolutions on the ball. Harbhajan becomes a very big threat and with the all the close in fielders waiting for the smallest of edges, the batsmen knows that it's only a matter of time before he gets undone. However the same aura of invincibility disappears when he fails to get a break through early. Harbhajan then tends to fire the ball in rather than tossing it up and hence gets little turn. Sometimes, he gets carried away that he rarely turns the ball more than a few centimeters. This is the Harbhajan Singh that often does him and India bad. If he manages to tame the latter version of himself, then I have a feeling that he will surpass Warne.
Being a big turner of the red cherry, people often say that the turbanator fails to make a mark outside India. This is as false as a possum playing dead. Then again, the numbers (An average of 28 at home against an average of 37 away) do hold some truth pointing to the fact that he is better at home. No doubt there, that Harbhajan at home is more lethal than a Harbhajan away, but Harbhajan Singh away is still a notable bowler to subdue. All his, 6 Man of the Match awards have come at home, but who can forget his 7 for 120 at Cape Town last year against the South Africans in the second innings? Harbhajan Singh is still a force to reckon with, be it in India or outside.
|Many more to come...|