Former spinners Laxman Sivaramakrishnan and Erapalli Prasanna feel Harbhajan Singh did not deserve a place in the Australia-bound Test team
India recalled fragile pace spearhead Zaheer Khan pending a fitness test, but continued to ignore seasoned spinner Harbhajan Singh for the forthcoming four-Test series in Australia as the All-India Senior Selection Committee met in the backdrop of the final day of the third India-West Indies Test at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday.
Harbhajan, who boasts of a splendid record against Australia, was overlooked for rampaging spin twins Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin, who combined for 42 wickets in India's 2-0 series win against West Indies. While selection committee chairman Kris Srikkanth justified the omission with "in Australia, you cannot have more than two spinners," two former spinners, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan and Erapalli Prasanna felt Harbhajan did not deserve a seat on the flight Down Under. "Even if there was place for a third spinner in the side, I wouldn't have picked Harbahajan at this stage. He needs to get lots of wickets in first-class cricket, work hard, and return to the fold," Prasanna told SUNDAY MiD DAY.
Sivaramakrishnan said there was no point in taking Harbhajan to Australia in the aftermath of Ashwin and Ojha's exploits "Harbhajan is a splendid bowler. If you take him to Australia, you have to play him in the XI. But with Ojha and Ashwin doing so well, that's not going to happen. So what's the point of taking him? I am still confident that he will make a comeback at some stage, but it's not his time now, Ashwin and Ojha have impressed me a lot," he said.
"I have been particularly satisfied with Ojha's performance. He turned this match (third and final Test against West Indies) on its head with a six-wicket haul. Ojha took advantage of the rough patches on the surface...
India will look to play both him and Ashwin at Sydney, where the pitch takes turn. I think we have the right set of spinners for Australia," said Sivaramakrishnan, who was the leading wicket-taker for India in the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985.
While Ajinkya Rahane will be the reserve opener in the squad, Rohit Sharma will push Virat Kohli for the No 6 spot. Praveen Kumar was expectedly recalled to the squad as one of the five pacers, but spearhead Zaheer Khan, who has been training for the last month, "will join the team subject to his match fitness," according to BCCI's press release. Wriddhiman Saha was picked as the reserve wicket keeper in the 17-man squad.
Test squad to Australia
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Praveen Kumar.
Coach: Duncan Fletcher