Harbhajan Singh: Kuldeep should be India's No. 1 spinner
Veteran offie Harbhajan Singh lauds chinaman's fifer at Sydney and urges the Indian think-tank to look beyond off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin
If the pace battery has been credited for India's historic maiden Test series triumph in Australia, the contribution from the spinners has also been vital. Out of the 70 Australian wickets claimed by the Indian bowlers in the four-Test series, 20 were courtesy the spinners.
Ravichandran Ashwin's six-wicket haul helped India go one-up in the opening Test at Adelaide, while Ravindra Jadeja's 3-82 in the second innings at Melbourne boosted the visitors' chances to take a 2-1 lead. Brought in for the final game, Kuldeep Yadav's wrist spin sent Australian batsmen into a tizzy at Sydney, only the sixth Test of his career.
And not to forget part-timer Hanuma Vihari's off-spin that got India the crucial wickets of Marcus Harris (70) and Shaun Marsh (45) in the first innings of the second Test at Perth, thus making up for the decision to have no specialist spinner.
Ashwin's injury opened the door for Jadeja, who finished with seven wickets in two Tests, while Kuldeep claimed 5-99 in the first innings at Sydney before weather stopped play yesterday.
Veteran India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh felt the team management should look at Kuldeep as their No. 1 spinner and Jadeja as the No. 2. "They have shown the way forward for Team India - to look at the option of playing them together abroad or in India. Ashwin being injured on two tours. When your team needs you the most, you [R Ashwin] get injured. Kuldeep should be promoted as the No. 1 spinner and Jadeja as the No. 2 spinner. These two guys should be playing together irrespective of where India are playing. They add a lot of strength to the team.
"You should play your match-winners. It shouldn't be like they play in overseas conditions aur jab malai khaane ka time aaye toh koi aur khelein [and when the time comes to reap rewards of your hard work in home conditions, you see someone else getting a chance]. They are working hard and winning you games abroad; they deserve to play at home as well," Harbhajan, who is part of the commentary panel for Sony Pictures Network, told mid-day yesterday.
Harbhajan urged the Indian think-tank to look beyond Ashwin now. "We were always looking at Ashwin as our first-choice spinner because he is a senior bowler. His record is also good, but only in India.
Kuldeep should be given around five to seven games, just like how you give others and make sure he gets comfortable with the role that is given to him. Kuldeep ne chaap acchi chodi hai [he has left a good impression].
"Even if it's a Day One pitch, he will be more than handy as he has got more variations than other spinners. He is a great weapon to use against batsmen from other countries, who have not played a spinner who can spin both ways," said Harbhajan, who had claimed nine wickets during the controversial 2007-08 tour to Australia. Harbhajan felt India won in Australia thanks to contributions from the batting unit, which wasn't the case on the tours to South Africa and England last year.
"I always thought India have got a better chance of winning a series in Australia than in England as the conditions are far better for batting. We all have seen how [good] our bowling has been. All that we wanted was runs on the board. There will be a point made that this was not a strong Australian team, but it is important to see how well we have played. It can't get any better than this," he signed off.
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