Even as India recorded an emphatic innings win over Australia in the second Test at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Tuesday, there were two players who had none-too-impressive performances to boast — Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh.
One has played 104 Tests and the other 101 Tests. In the second Test, Sehwag spent 37 uncomfortable minutes, hitting a single four when he steered Peter Siddle to point boundary before falling to the same bowler to a delivery that rose from a good length spot and he could not take his bat away. The resultant edge was taken easily by wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.
It was a sad sight to see a tentative Sehwag struggling against this weak an attack even as Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara put on 370 runs for the second wicket. Sehwag now faces an uncertain future in Test cricket. A batsman who never changed his attacking style, he always relied on eye-and-hand coordination. ‘
However recently, the 34-year-old opener had been encountering some eye problems, forcing him to wear spectacles while fielding. That could be one of the reasons. Having massacred the world’s best attacks in his heyday, Sehwag faces a crisis. He has the ability to make comebacks though at this stage of his career, it seems time is running out for this fabulous opener.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was non-committal when a question was asked about the opener. “That’s a difficult one... you have to wait and watch. There is a selection meeting coming up. You always look to have balance in the team. We will be touring abroad and we don’t have that many Test matches after this series. We hardly play any Test matches before we tour South Africa. So we will have to wait and watch,’’ said a diplomatic Dhoni.
Although Harbhajan showed signs of improvement in the first innings when he got to bowl 22 overs and captured two wickets, the off-spinner looked lost when Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were wrecking the Australians in the second. Harbhajan bowled only ten overs, two on the fourth day after the ninth wicket fell. But he could not get any wicket.
However, in the first innings, he was effective once he bowled from the far end. He got more bounce and turn. In his 13-over spell, he captured the wickets of Mathew Wade and Siddle. Veteran off-spinner Kanwaljit Singh felt Harbhajan bowled much slower in the air. “I think he is bowling under some pressure and as a result, he is not able to get the right rhythm. He was bowling much faster through the air but in the second spell on the first day, he bowled slower through the air. He could get turn and bounce,’’ said Kanwaljit.
But there was some controversy as many former cricketers felt local left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha should have played instead of Harbhajan. The tall Ojha could have exploited the bounce as he did against New Zealand in August last year. Jadeja, on the other hand, more than justified his role as he bagged six wickets, three each in two innings as left arm spinner. His ball to bowl the fleet-footed Michael Clarke, who is one of the finest player of spin, was too good. It spun from middle to disturb the stumps. Ojha, the leading wicket-taker against England in the last series, could sit and watch the proceedings from the pavilion.
But Harbhajan, who is making comeback in successive series, seems to have the support of his skipper. Dhoni felt there is always pressure on a player when he makes his comeback. Having taken only 16 wickets from five matches in Ranji Trophy, the off-spinner is lacking in confidence. But Dhoni feels that Harbhajan has been performing well. Dhoni said when playing three spinners in a match, one spinner gets to be under-bowled. “The Australians have lots of left-handers, and having two offies helps,’’ he added.
Team For Mohali, Delhi Tests Today
Meanwhile, the Sandeep Patil-led national selection committee, which were scheduled to announce the team on Wednesday, put it off by a day. The selectors will now announce the squad for the Mohali and Delhi Tests on Thursday. According to sources, the selectors are likely to announce an unchanged squad.