Friday, March 28, 2008

End to all discussion !!!!!

It doesnt matter....

that the guy doesn't have a great technique..
that he can be found out by good wickets on helpful pitches..
that he has an ordinary one-day record..
that he has a poor second-innings record..
that the pitch had about as much life as that on Mars..
that the bowling attack was not the best in the world..

Any man who can score two triple hundreds in a career should be undisputedly regarded as one of the all time greats of the game !!! PERIOD....


Sunday, March 9, 2008

The strange case of Harbhajan Singh !!!

So finally, the saga Down Under has come to a close. And after a summer in which the off-field action matched the action on the field, the Men in Blue have returned not only with the CB Series trophy in their kitty, but also with their heads held high. True to their fickle loyalty, the fans have treated them as though they were the jawaans coming back from the front (which I admit, is not entierly far-fetched given what has happened over the past 3 months). And one man in particular, must be feeling on top of the world. For Harbhajan Singh, it would seem that he has finally had the last laugh in his battle against the Aussie players, media and the public in general. To top it all, it was poetic justice that he claimed the wicket of Symonds in both the finals in addition to claiming Hayden in the first final and running him out in the second. Indeed, for the 27 year old Sardar, the Australian tour of 2007-08 has been as much about off-the-field incidents as much as on-the-field exploits. He has had the support of the entire nation during the Sydney-gate controversy and then again, during the last stages of the tour during the 'weed' saga. His captains, his team-mates, the Indian press and the country at large were firmly behind him and in the end, it would seem he has won the war.

But if he were to closely examine his performances not only on his tour but also over the past couple of years, Bhajji would realize that it is all well to be aggressive on the field, have mock fist fights with your team-mate and to indulge in a war of words with the opposition. But the base on which all that is built is the batting, bowling or fielding performance of the concerned individual. And that is where Bhajji would seem to have a problem. All the happenings over the past 3 months have, in fact, diverted public attention away from the fact that India's premier off-spinner is losing his way in Test cricket. Apart from the two CB series finals, his bowling on the tour was but a shadow of 2001. To put some numbers in, Bhajji's last 10 test matches (since March 2006) have seen him take only 35 wickets at an average of 40.20 !!!! (See the stats here). Even these figures are propped by a spell of 5-13 at Jamaica in 2006 in which his victims were Messrs Dwayne Bravo, Ramdin, Pedro Collins, Sarwan and Ganga. Take that spell out and the average shoots to 46.4 !!. Clearly, these are unacceptable figures by any standards. His ODI figures are not to better either, though I admit he is a better bowler in the 50 over format. In the last 2 years, 54 ODIs have bought him only 51 wickets at an average of 39.47 (compared to a career average of 33.51) The economy also is slightly higher than his career rate. When was the last time that Bhajji ran through the middle-order of the opposition ? One would struggle to remember. And let it not be mistaken that his performance has been affected because of the off-field incidents, since the waning of his bowling prowess started even before all these controversies started. To put in plainly, Harbhajan Singh, on pure form, does not deserve his place in the Test side. And that is especially worrying for India since their Test captain and leading spinner is close to retirement (in fact I worry that Dhoni's continuing success might put pressure on the selectors to make him the Test captain sooner that they would like to, thus virtually pushing Kumble to retirement). And if Kumble were to retire at some point next year, and if Bhajji's bowling form continues to be the way it is, India would have huge problems in test matches. Suitable successors need to be unearthed as soon as possible. In fact, I would play a Piyush Chawla or a Pragyan Ojha along with Kumble for the test s against South Africa just to test out the spin bowling cupboard.

As for Bhajji, he would do well to reflect on his bowling performance rather than continue with his verbal volleys even after the tour has ended. Aggression without being backed by performances looks pretty much silly.