Posts Tagged Harbhajan Singh
The Legslip Management pays tribute to India’s greatest “unsung” matchwinner
Anil Kumble, like many great cricketers, was enigmatic for most of his career. He was a legspinner with an aggression and appetite of a fast bowler. Unlike most legspinners, he was never a great turner of the ball and instead relied more on variation in flight, pace and angle to pick wickets.
Hence, Kumble provided international cricket with a package that was perhaps never seen before- he was tall, aggressive, hungry for wickets and his legspin was unconventional. Yet Kumble was an immensely successful bowler and more than natural ability with the ball or his wrists, it was his combative mindset and sheer intelligence that enabled him to make a name for himself.
Consider Kumble’s technique against Inzamam for instance. Few bowlers troubled Inzamam more than Kumble did and Kumble nearly always succeeded in trapping the legendary batsman before his wickets. Kumble was also gifted in the sense of, pitching the delivery at the exact location where he wanted it to land. It was this continuous meticulous effort of being accurate with the line and length that forced the batsmen to make mistakes against Kumble. In fact at times you almost felt he was a mind reader.
Kumble never received the appreciation he deserved. His consistency was never in doubt and despite being known in circles as an aggressive and intelligent cricketer, he was considered for captaincy too late; when he had already been playing international cricket for 17 years. Kumble’s record as captain (3 wins, 6 draws and 5 losses) may not seem outstanding, but as a captain he was shrewd and tactful. Perhaps a good way to phrase it is, that Kumble was not particularly bad; Dhoni is just too good.
619 Test wickets at an average of 29.65 and strike rate of 66; somehow one never really saw the value in these figures as the Indian batting maestros Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly always stole the limelight. Yet Kumble was very modest and humble and never asked for undue appreciation. We give credit to Tendulkar for being the torch bearer of comtemporary Indian batting mastery, yet we seldom give Kumble credit for being arguably India’s most successful bowler ever; Kumble, with 619 Test wickets, is the 3rd highest wicket taker in Test cricket, after Murali and Warne.
Speaking of Murali and Warne, they were perhaps in a different league to Kumble as their bowling strike rates demonstrate. Yet when it comes to how useful a bowler is for his team, Kumble was never any less than Warne or Kumble. Warne had McGrath by his side and he also had Brett Lee; Kumble, for most of his career, did not play with any world class bowler who could give him support from the other end. In fact, Harbhajan only really came into the limelight when Kumble had already started fading as a world class spinner.
Kumble had setbacks and controversies in his career, but he was always picking up wickets and applying pressure on the opposition. Kumble was never very animated, nor was he ever excessively reserved- he applied a balance to his game and he was always up for a challenge. If one considers the ratio of India’s victories to Kumble’s 4 or 5 wicket hauls, one would genuinely discover Kumble’s value to the Indian team.
Anil Kumble will be an icon for his heroic qualities- his mental strength, his resilience but most of all, his modesty and relentless consistency despite being deprived of most of the limelight by Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly. The point of being a hero is, believing in a cause and accomplishing it even if if you don’t get your due for it. That is what heroes are made up of, and Kumble was the definitive Indian hero. He retires as a great model for Indian youngsters, and he will be remembered as India’s greatest unsung matchwinner.
The Feroz Shah Kotla stadium has been a welcome venue for the Indians. India has won its last 7 Tests at this ground and the captain Kumble has picked up 55 wickets at this venue in 6 Tests at an outstanding average of 15.71.
Kumble has to be the spotlight of this preview, because his performance of late has not been anything to write home about. Although Kumble is fit and raring to go at his favourite ground, he was not the captain in the previous Test where India registered the famous record victory. It has been reported that Kumble is quite confident going into the 3rd Test, but even his most ardent supporters admit he is feeling the heat, more so because of Mishra’s revelation in the 2nd Test.
Speaking of Mishra, he may well have to lose out due to Kumble’s inclusion. The Mohali Test has presented the Indian team management with almost a delicious dilemma. As of now, there can be no question of dropping Kumble because he is the captain. Yet, Mishra’s performance at Mohali warrants a place. Harbhajan is stuck in the middle and at the moment it is unclear whether the toe injury he sustained in the Mohali Test has been cured. The slight problem India may have is losing some of the psychological advantage that is present when Harbhajan is playing against Australia, if Harbhajan has to sit out.
The curators have attempted their best to produce a spin friendly wicket for Kumble. Keeping this in mind Kumble may want to gamble and play the third spinner instead of either Laxman or Dravid. However historically speaking the Indian team management has never liked to compromise on batting. An interesting statistic about the Kotla is that spinners on this ground have taken nearly two-thirds of all the wickets that have fallen, so this may be something Kumble perhaps would want to consider.
The Kotla is also a friendly ground for the aggressive Indian openers Gambhir and Sehwag, both of whom hail from Delhi and are very comfortable with the local conditions. They are expected to set some fireworks at this ground.
The Indians have hit Australia where it hurts and it appears Australia will have to play out of their skins to win this one. One change is likely to be made in the Australian line up, with Stuart Clark replacing Peter Siddle. One might cynically consider if that is likely to make any difference keeping in mind that Siddle was not particularly bad in the Mohali Test. Australia is missing a quality spinner on these types of tracks and for the first time perhaps the fact that there is no Warne to bamboozle the opposition is showing in Australia’s performance.
Cameron White is a prospect but he needs more experience as this Indian attack has the potential to handle him pretty comfortably.
Ponting demanded his seniors to perform and with good reason. Hayden has expressed devising a new strategy to counter Zaheer Khan and Clarke has also pledged to bat with more responsibility. Australia have been pushed back and most pundits are already predicting an Indian win, but this is an excellent opportunity to see just how much juice is there in the Australians after their humiliation at Mohali. It is interesting how both the captains of the opposing teams are under pressure to perform. Speaking from Australia’s perspective, their strength is pace bowling and they will have to pick up early wickets. As for their batting, Hayden & Co will have to attack and show positive intent. Otherwise we will probably bear witness to yet another humiliation for Australia.
Khansahab previews the much anticipated India vs Australia series starting October 9th and the T20 tournament featuring Pakistan in Canada which starts October 10th.
INDIA VS AUSTRALIA
Indian fans will have high expectations with this one. India fought back well against Sri Lanka after the Test series loss and won the ODI series. This series is crucial for many different reasons but the obvious ones are as follows:
1) India rise in world cricket and Australia’s newly discovered vulnerability means that both teams are on a level playing field, almost
2) Australia face a threat against genuine spin and Indian spinners particularly Harbhajan, have performed well against the Aussies of late
3) Ganguly has announced that he will retire after this series. Hence all eyes will be on Ganguly and his fans will hope he bows out gracefully
4) There is tremendous rivalry between the Indians and the Australians. Both teams have not been friendly to each other in recent memory. Sreesanth and Harbhajan have had trouble with the Aussies, Ponting was severely criticised by Gavasker for claiming a catch, and both teams have complained about the behaviour of the other. Perhaps the triggering incident of this animosity was when the Australian players rudely pushed the BCCI chief when they were having a photograph taken in a past series.
In terms of the pitches and climate, October is generally warm in India and the pitches are expected to play as standard- conducive to swing in the early overs but then favouring spin generally as the days progress. India’s biggest advantage will definitely be its spinners. Whereas Kumble has not been in prime touch recently, he has a great record inside India and Harbhajan has benefited from a resurgence of form.
There must be a mention of the Fab Four of the Indian batting line up. As stated earlier Ganguly has announced his decision to retire after this Test series. There have been reports from the BCCI circles that this is the last straw for the Indian Fab Four. Tendulkar has been granted an opportunity to break Lara’s record (he is just 76 runs behind) whereas the recent Wall built in Bangalore in Dravid’s honour seems like a subtle message to the legendary batsman to consider his retirement and exit from the game with some grace.
To conclude then, this is a very important series for various reasons and is being considered as a marathon battle between two cricketing giants. It will be great to see the Indian batting legends pile up runs and retire on a good note.
T20 TOURNAMENT IN CANADA
Although most cricket fans will consider this to be a meaningless tournament, it has gained some interest from Pakistan fans simply because of the absence of cricket in the country. A decent performance in this competition can provide some relief to the depressed Pakistan cricket fan.
The squad has been announced and is as follows: Shoiab Malik (c), Misbah ul Haq (vc), Shahid Afridi,Salman Butt,Shoiab Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Younis Khan,Kamran Akmal,Khalid Latif,Umer Gul,Anwar Ali,Abdul Rauf, Saeed Ajmal,Fawad Alam,Sohail Khan
Nasir Jamshed’s exclusion has been queried who has been replaced by Khalid Latif. Although Latif has been a prolific scorer in domestic cricket, he appeared out of form in the RBS domestic T20 Cup. Nasir was out of form too, but deserved a chance in this tournament. Disappointingly Malik is still captain.
A surprising name in the squad is that of Shoaib Akhtar who performed poorly against Surrey and then did not pick many wickets in the RBS Cup, although he was economical.
There have been many calls to drop Shahid Afridi although he was brilliant with the ball and effective with the bat in the RBS Cup. Afridi is in form and there will be enormous expectations from him.
This T20 Cup will not do much to alleviate the Pakistan team’s hapless standing in world cricket, but it will provide some entertainment to the cricket starved Pakistan cricket fans.