After the snub at home against the West Indies, out of favour Harbhajan Singh is unlikely to find an India berth for the tour Down Under too; Ojha, Ashwin certain, Sharma may be the third spinner
Come November 25, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) selectors will have a tough time dealing with one issue. When Krishnamachari Srikkanth and his colleagues -- Mohinder Amarnath, Surendra Bhave, Narendra Hirwani and Raja Venkat -- meet to select a 16-member party to tour Down Under in December to February, they will have to take a call on whether or not to pick Harbhajan Singh. In all probability, the selectors are on the verge of making a strong statement by not considering him for the tour of Australia.
Harbhajan, who was also dropped from the squad for the Tests against the West Indies at home, has two factors in his favour -- experience of playing 98 Tests (406 wickets), and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's support, while the selectors are banking only on performance. "One gets selected on the basis of performance and similarly one gets dropped on the basis of performance. It won't be any different for anybody," a selector told SUNDAY MiD DAY.
In fact, Harbhajan got an opportunity to stand up and be counted in the domestic circuit, but the 31-year-old Punjab off-spinner failed to make use of that. After returning from England with a rib injury, he has hardly done anything worth noticing, barring a few four-over spells in the Champions League T20 for Mumbai Indians.
The last two Ranji Trophy games against Uttar Pradesh and Orissa have been forgettable ones as well. In the three matches, he went wicketless against UP, managed 1-44 against Orissa and in the ongoing match against Saurashtra, his only victim so far is Jaidev Unadkat. Time is also running out for him as he now has just one innings to make his case stronger to board that Australia flight.
The selectors already have plans without the Turbanator. On the basis of performance, Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin select themselves. Given that Ashwin too is an off-spinner, it makes little sense to pick another offie. Now, even if they decide to pick three spinners, it will be a toss-up between leggies Rahul Sharma and Piyush Chawla.
Sharma in frame
Sharma, who also hails from Punjab, is in the selectors' good books for his ability to extract bounce from any surface while Chawla, who has 10 wickets in his kitty in three Ranji matches including a fifer, will have captain Dhoni's support for sure. "Sharma's bounce may come handy on Australian pitches," said another selector. But it's not over for Harbhajan, as a player of his stature cannot be axed at the drop of a hat. Keeping in mind the importance of the tour, skipper Dhoni may even explore other options (take help from senior team members) to win over the selectors during the meeting on Day Four of the Mumbai Test against the West Indies. The squad for the tri-series, also involving Sri Lanka, will be picked the following day (November 26).