New Delhi: Comeback from a career- threatening injury is never easy and that’s why South African pace ace Dale Steyn might not turn out to be as big a threat for India in next month’s highly-anticipated Test series, feels senior spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Steyn was out of competitive cricket for a year after suffering a shoulder dislocation during a Test match against Australia last year.
“Dale Steyn is unarguably the best fast bowler of the last 10 years but coming back into international cricket is not easy. A Test match against Zimbabwe will not exactly be an indicator of what he can do against India,” Harbhajan told PTI during an interview on the upcoming South Africa series.
“Look at the Indian batting line up. We have so much quality. Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma. This is perhaps among the best line-up in world cricket.
“For both Steyn and Morkel, it will be a challenge to stop this line-up especially when they themselves will need to get into the groove,” the ‘Turbanator’ assessed.
The lack of lateral movement in South Africa means that batsmen would only need to counter the bounce.
“The kookaburra ball, as everyone knows, will stop seaming after 20 odd overs. Plus it’s only the bounce that needs to be taken care of.”
There is a debate whether Hardik Pandya for his all-round abilities should be India’s choice as No.6 but Harbhajan thinks otherwise.
He wants to see Rohit Sharma at the No.6 position as he is still not sure how Hardik Pandya would shape up as a batsman in that important position.
“Rohit is a fabulous player. Someone who plays the pull shot well and also plays the cut shot well. Rohit is my pick at No.6. He can ride the bounce and play his strokes,” he further explained.
“Hardik is a talented boy but Rohit for me is a complete batsman,” Harbhajan gave his take on the subject.
Harbhajan did not want to read too much into India not playing a practice game in South Africa before the first Test match.
“It is a very team-specific decision. The team management must have put some serious thought while taking such a decision. Obviously if they don’t have a practice game, possibly, the net bowlers who are going, will provide them with match simulation,” he opined.
He is the fastest to reach 300 Test wickets and that’s why it will be surprising if Ravichandran Ashwin is not an “automatic pick” in the Indian Test XI in Africa, feels Harbhajan Singh.
India are expected to play single spinner in the three Test matches and it is going to be a toss up between Ashwin and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja.
For Harbhajan, if Ashwin is fit, then there should not be any debate about who the single spinner in the playing XI should be.
“If Ashwin is still not an automatic pick after 300 wickets then when?” questioned Harbhajan.
For someone, who was known as Ricky Ponting’s nemesis (he got the former Australian captain 12 times in Tests), Harbhajan refuses to believe the theory that off-spinners would only be effective against a team that has more left handers.
“The South African pitches will test patience of spinners as there won’t be much purchase like the sub-continent tracks where the ball will turn and jump from Day 1. That’s where skill comes into play as one has got to be patient,” said Harbhajan.
The seasoned off-spinner believes that India has the team to beat South Africa in their own den.
“It’s a confident team and it’s always good to win matches before any overseas tour. Any team that travels overseas loves to believe that it is going there to win the series. The Indian team is no different. We have a good batting line-up and a quality pace attack,” he signed off.