Harbhajan Singh may have taken only two wickets in Australia’s first innings, but former India off-spinner and former Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) president, Arshad Ayub feels that the Punjab offie could be the guiding force of the Indian spin attack.
“Ravichandran Ashwin has shown consistency and is very accurate. He has huge potential and can replace Harbhajan. At the same time, I don’t think Harbhajan is finished as a bowler. On the contrary, both can complement each other for a few years and it will benefit young spinners.
“Harbhajan could be chief mentor, like Anil Kumble, in guiding youngsters like Pragyan Ojha, Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin,” said Ayub.
Ayub, who played 13 Tests and 32 ODIs for India from 1987 to 1990, is delighted to see the home team fielding two off-spinners in the playing XI. “Although two offies have played in a Test before, they have never opened the bowling together (as in Chennai). Ashwin has the potential to carry forward the legacy of Harbhajan. Of course, we should not be comparing Ashwin with somebody who has claimed over 400 Test wickets, but India has a good future in the off-spin department,” said the former India spinner.
Like several cricket lovers and experts in Hyderabad, local boy Ojha’s presence in the playing XI is missed, but Ayub underlines that ultimately results matter. “Whatever decision they (think-tank) took, it was successful. I don’t think we should debate that. However, I have always preferred specialists in Tests (referring to the inclusion of Jadeja),” he said.
Ayub also felt that India must always take advantage of spinning conditions at home. “We never criticise tracks when we get bowled out for under 100 abroad. If a team gets 380-odd in the first innings, how can we blame the pitches?
“Over 1000 runs were scored in Chennai. We play spin better. We struggled against England because they had top-class spinners. Home advantage must be taken into account. Chennai was no akhara (pit),” said the 54-year-old Hyderabadi.