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Tweak Point: Bhajji Living in the Moment

Published: 20th October 2015 05:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th October 2015 05:42 AM   |  A+A-

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CHENNAI:  When you are a 35-year-old sportsman and fallen down in relevance, there’s a tendency to over-complicate the sporadic chances you are afforded to come back, no matter how glittering your past deeds might be. There’s that sometimes self-detrimental desperation to prove yourself over and again, more so if you are made of such fieriness as Harbhajan Singh.

But since returning to the national fold, four long years after Ravichandran Ashwin displaced him in all three forms, Harbhajan’s streak of irreverence that had so blazingly flickered in his youthful pomp has made way for a silent detachment to the elusive powers. The motivation, at this hour, will be to burn as brightly as he could before the light goes out of his career altogether.

Tw.JPGWhereas in the longest format, he has perceptibly struggled to re-stoke the fire that made him such a devilish customer to handle, the shorter forms have been more appreciative of his utility, so much so that some residue of the old magic dust still remains. Content with the reality that he would be invariably chosen if and when Ashwin is rested or injured, the veteran of 266 ODI scalps has quietly, but efficiently, plied his wares.

In five ODIs since returning, he has taken seven wickets at 28.85 at an economy rate of 4.04. He still carries with him an inimitable passion and reptillian shrewdness. “He has made a considerable difference to the side. Replacing an in-form Ashwin, he hasn’t made his absence felt. He has bowled with great control and craft. He has come on to bowl at crucial junctures and given the team vital breakthroughs. He’s flighting the ball more frequently and is not over-reliant on doosras. With little more luck, he could have picked up more wickets. Definitely with more matches, his confidence too will improve,” opined former India spinner Maninder Singh.

More pertinently, the off-spinning showman has hardly conceded the impression of a man whose future is imperilled, though it’s a no-brainer that he would be dispensed with as soon as Ashwin recuperates.

Unless confronted with a batting line-up crammed with left-handers, the temptation to play two offies would be resisted, and not when your leg spinner has almost always provided the cutting edge. Amit Mishra’s fate is like an understudy who is repeatedly put through auditions. Almost every time, he passes the tests with flying colours, but he is made to repeat the routines. So in 13 years since debuting, he has collected just 29 ODI caps, despite averaging 24.22 per wicket and conceding just 4.56 an over.

Even in the South Africa series, he was omitted for the Indore match despite bowling well in Kanpur. Recalled for the Rajkot match, he emphasised his value with a splendid performance of 38 for 1—Hashim Amla was so pleasingly deceived that the framed sequence of this dismissal could do his walls. “Whenever given a chance, he has proved that he has it in him to succeed at this level. Having an experienced, quality leg-spinner is an asset, irrespective of the wicket. It’s time he became a regular fixture,” observed Maninder.

When Harbhajan was running the Invincibles of Australia ragged in 2001, Mishra was cutting his teeth in the domestic circuit and Ashwin chiselling his batting skills in school cricket. Both have now outgrown the veteran, and Harbhajan would be content making the next-best man appearances in limited-over versions. A fact he would take with a pinch of salt.

Then, when you are a 35-year-old sportsman and fallen down in relevance, you are not afforded with choices. That he has embraced the new role without fuss is a testament to the sober side of the fiery spinner. Or that zest for life.



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