The Australians are known for their aggressive brand of cricket, and Harbhajan Singh has successfully managed to get under their skin in the past.
Harbhajan, who is just one match away from playing his 100th Test, will surely play on Michael Clarke & Co’s mind, reckons his childhood coach Davinder Arora.
“Harbhajan has the ability to instill fear in opponents. He will surely play on Australia’s minds. He has the ability to trouble them. Legendary Sunil Gavaskar had once said that one has to play aggressively to beat Australia in their own game. Harbhajan is very good at it,” Arora told MiD DAY from Jalandhar.
Harbhajan has tormented the Australians ever since the 2001 Test series in which he claimed 32 wickets in the three-match Test series. In Kolkata, he became the first Indian to achieve a Test hat-trick. Australia also brings out the best of the ‘Turbanator’, who has claimed 81 wickets in 12 home Tests, including seven five-wicket hauls and three 10-wicket hauls.
The veteran offie has often landed in trouble for his on-field aggression — the ugliest being the Monkeygate episode during the 2008 Sydney Test where he was accused of racially abusing Andrew Symonds. “He has learnt to channelise it (aggression) well,” said Arora, who is head coach at the Harbhajan Singh Institute of Cricket.
The perky spinner had a satisfactory Irani Cup tie against Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai, claiming three and two wickets each at the Wankhede Stadium recently. His recall to the Test team for the Australia series is his second comeback of the season.
“Without doubt, this is a very important series for Harbhajan and also for Team India. He felt he was bowling too flat because of playing too much T20 cricket in recent times. He went back to the longer format to find his form and rhythm. I am happy he has got it back. He has worked very hard on his flight, turn and bounce,” said the coach, who played Ranji Trophy for Punjab and Railways.
It remains to be seen which of his spinners Mahendra Singh Dhoni will pick if he opts for a two-man spin attack in the opening Test at Chennai on Friday. Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha could well be the skipper’s first choice, but the X factor lies with Harbhajan. “The Aussies are not good players of spin. Harbhajan has vast experience bowling to them. He will get the right kind of angles as they have many left-handers in the team,” said Arora.