Ashley Mallett, the former off-spin bowler and Australia’s spin guru, has tipped Harbhajan Singh to torment his countrymen for Down Under once more in the forthcoming four-Test series.
Mallett (68) famously predicted that Harbhajan would be the bane of the Aussies before the historic 2001 Test series in India (despite Steve Waugh’s team being called invincible), and the Sardar went on to pick up 32 wickets. The Indian off-spinner, who has claimed 81 Australian wickets in his 99-Test career, earned a recall on Sunday.
Speaking to MiD DAY from Adelaide, Mallett, said: “I expected the Indian selectors to pick Harbhajan since we have more left-handers than slice bread. He gets under our skin and if he can bowl half as well as what he has bowled before, he’ll do alright.” Mallett’s 28 wickets was a key factor in Australia’s 1969-70 Test series win in India.
India has lost a home Test series to Australia only once after that. Since left-handed batsmen are prone to succumbing to off-spin, Mallett said the Australian batsmen have a huge challenge on hand. “I think the left-handers are going to really struggle. It is very important for them to rotate the strike. If they try and sit on one leg, they’ll get knocked over,” he said.
Mallett is hopeful of all-rounder Glenn Maxwell coming good. “Maxwell is like Kevin Pietersen with the bat — not as good — but like him. I reckon he’ll be a surprise packet.”
India’s success will hinge on the type of tracks on offer and Mallett believed the series will witness “absolute minefields.” He also stressed the need for India’s batsmen to get runs: “They have to set enough runs for their spinners, who are not as good as Bishan Singh Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna and they are not as good as Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. India were totally out-bowled by England. They’ll back themselves to out-spin our blokes, but don’t be surprised if our bowlers do well.”
The first Test kicks off in Chennai (Feb 22-26), a venue where Mallett claimed 10 wickets to bowl Australia to a 77-run win in 1969.