NEW DELHI: In the on-going Chennai cricket Test match, Harbhajan Singh became only the third Indian bowler after Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble to play in 100 Test matches and pick up more than 400 wickets.
After Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble, he is the fourth spinner in international cricket to capture more than 400 wickets.
With six Man of the Match awards under his belt, Bhajji was nicknamed `turbanator’ after he took 32 wickets in the 2001 three-match series against Australia.
With 800 wickets in 133 Test matches, Muttiah Murlitharan is the highest wicket taker in Test cricket. He is also the top wicket taker in ODIs, having captured 534 scalps in 350 matches. But Murli’s career was riddled with controversies over his bowling action. In fact, the Indian legend Bishen Singh Bedi went on to call him a `shot-putter’.
On the second spot is the legendary Shame Warne with 708 wickets from 145 Test matches. Rated by many as the best spin bowler ever to bowl, Warne also took 293 wickets in 293 ODIs. And the blond bowler scored with batsmen as easily on the field as he scored with women off the field.
The third highest wicket-taker is our own `Jumbo’ Anil Kumble who notched up 619 wickets from 132 Test matches. Interestingly, he also had a Test century to his credit. As well, Kumble picked up 337 wickets in 271 ODIs.
And Jalandhar-born Bhajji is the fourth spinner with 409 wickets in 100 Test matches.
But from the look of the proceedings of the match so far, it seems that his captain Dhoni has little faith in him as he was not bowled at all in the last session of Day 1 of the match and brought on very late in the pre-lunch session on Day 2. And when he got into his rhythm and took a wicket, Dhoni took him off. It looks like Dhoni doesn’t want him in the team. And the way things are going for him, it could well be his last Test match. Unless Dhoni gets the boot himself as Test skipper.
In fact, VVS Laxman, who is doing the commentary on the match for Star Cricket, took Dhoni to task on air for ignoring Bhajji. “Dhoni is sending out the wrong message by keeping Harbhajan on the sidelines. He is making him feel unwanted in the team. A guy who is playing his 100th Test doesn’t deserve that sort of treatment,” Laxman said.
Laxman, who has recently retired from Test cricket, went on to mention that it is not the first time that Dhoni has treated Harbhajan shabbily. Recalling the Mumbai Test match against England last year, the classy batsman said, “When Harbhajan returned after a long time for the Mumbai Test against England late last year, he was given the same treatment. A guy who is making a comeback has some nervous energy, some jitters and a captain should give him plenty of support and that’s how you get the best out of a player. Dhoni didn’t do that then.”
But his former skipper Rahul Dravid has encouraging words for Harbhajan.“He (Bhajji) is one of the great spinners produced by Indian cricket, and I believe he can go on to become a titan,” Dravid writes in a column in Cricinfo.
Dravid said Bhajji is “a great spinner who could become a titan.” His encouraging advise to the struggling spinner was this, “He has played a huge part in Indian cricket but more awaits him. He must show us the best of his skill again, be a mentor to the next generation of young spinners and show them that the old guys usually have all the answers. Go for it, Bhaj.”