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Harbhajan ready to 'turn' it on the Aussies

Last updated on: September 30, 2010 10:27 IST

Harbhajan has struggled in the absence of Kumble

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Bikash Mohapatra Mohali

After a lean spell, Harbhajan Singh gets his chance for retribution against a side that has always brought the best out of the bowler.

Reality is a bitter pill to swallow.

If it is followed with criticism -- doesn't matter even if it is constructive -- it becomes even tougher to digest.

And if it concerns Indians in general, and in this case Indian sport in particular, acceptance be forgotten, excuses, explanations and counter-criticisms become the order of the day.

The controversial build-up to the upcoming Commonwealth Games being a case in point. Harbhajan Singh's case is yet another example.

The offie has struggled to assert his authority ever since taking over the mantle of India's leading spinner from his illustrious predecessor and former captain, Anil Kumble.


Image: Harbhajan Singh

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Bhajji has picked just 58 wkts in 14 Tests since Kumble quit

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He may find it difficult to admit but figures do provide a reality check. With Kumble providing pressure from one end, Harbhajan reaped the rewards at the other when the duo bowled in tandem.

The result: Harbhajan had impressive figures of 299 wickets in 71 Tests (@ 30.97) when Kumble decided to hang up is boots -- after the Ferozeshah Kotla Test against Australia in October 2008.

Thereafter, his impact hasn't been the same -- just 58 wickets in 14 Tests (@ 34.98).


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'He has choked under pressure'

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His bowling has lacked the bite and he is no more the potent force he was under Kumble's tutelage. Good performances have been sporadic and disappointments more frequent, leading to criticism from various quarters.

'He has choked under pressure,' the legendary Erapalli Prasanna was quoted as saying. 'He was supposed to lead the bowling attack after (Anil) Kumble's retirement. But so far he has failed.'

There are others who believe Harbhajan has become a 'defensive bowler'. The bowler is palpably unhappy with the criticism coming his way.


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'I will always remain an attacking bowler'

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"People say many things about me," he says, trying his best to make a valid point. "They may be right when they say I have become a batsman because I score runs, but they are wrong when they say I have become a defensive bowler.

"I am an attacking bowler and I will always play that way," he adds.

The explanation may not have sounded convincing but a good performance certainly will.

And Harbhajan's next chance for retribution comes against a side which has always ensured the best out of the bowler: both on and off the field.

Harbhajan and the Australian team make an odd couple, one that shares a love-hate relationship.


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Bhajji has chalked an impressive record against the Aussies

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Ever since making his Test debut against Australia, at Bangalore in March 1998, Harbhajan has piled up an impressive record against the team from Down Under -- with 79 wickets in 14 Tests (@ 28.82), his best effort against any nation.

If his 32 wickets in three Tests in the 2001 series is an unforgettable effort, he didn't do that bad either when Australia last toured India for a Test series two years back, finishing with 15 wickets in the three matches he featured in.

And it is not only on the field where Harbhajan has excelled against the Aussies. His off-the-field antics have grabbed the headlines on an equal footing, if not more. Remember monkeygate?


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'The Aussies love me so much'

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So much so, that his name inadvertently crops up whenever an Aussie is discussing Indian cricket. Harbhajan himself is at a loss of words when asked to explain.

"They love me so much. I have so many friends in Australia and whenever I play against them and perform, I feel good," says Harbhajan, the diplomatic tone in his voice all the more obvious.

However, the offie does promise to deliver again this time. And on this occasion, his tone is one which is normally associated with him.

"I will try to perform even better this time," he promises, adding, "So that next time when an India-Australia series happens, they (Aussies) again take my name first."


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