After the Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture, I had a chat with Harbhajan. I told him he needed to rectify his line and length to make a successful comeback. I was uncertain at that point if he would be playing the first Test against Australia in Chennai. Now, that Harbhajan’s 100th Test cap has been confirmed, I congratulate him on this remarkable achievement.
Harbhajan’s longevity is a testimony to his talent and consistency. However, he will be under pressure to perform. He hasn’t been bowling well recently. He has been bowling too short and is not consistent with his line. But I believe he still has some years of cricket left in him.
As I told him last night, he has to make the batsmen play forward and has to bowl a consistent off-stump line. The shorter length that he has been bowling allows the batsmen to cut and pull. The big occasion of playing the 100th Test notwithstanding, Harbhajan will know that his performance will be under scrutiny.
As the senior-most spinner and one of the most experienced players in the side, Harbhajan will have the additional responsibility of leading the attack. He will be expected to take wickets and what better opposition to do so than Australia, a team he has a great record against.
However, it will be important that he bowls with a relaxed mind and doesn’t try too hard. Harbhajan has played enough cricket to know that a spinner needs to be patient. He needs to keep in mind that his performance would be monitored and another bad series might put an end to his Test career.
(As told to Shamik Chakrabarty)