Ashwin is an intelligent bowler: Bhajji
Comebacks are always tough, and more so when you have very little left to achieve at the highest level. Success often brings contentment, which in turn, diminishes the motivation to work hard. But there are those who remain hungry despite tasting the sweetest fruits of success, and are ready to put in the hard yards in order to earn a few more. Harbhajan Singh is one of them.
For a man who has picked up 400 Test wickets, architected his team’s most memorable victory and played a vital role in making his country the best in Test cricket, it would’ve been so much easier to just give up the hunger after he was dropped.
But the 32 year-old Punjab spinner has never liked taking the easy option. He’s a fighter, a rebel. He likes to do what people say he can’t. And he often ends up doing it pretty well.
But Harbhajan gets nervous too, as he admitted to being in the first innings of the ongoing first Test against Australia – his 100th – in which he’s making a comeback. With India a wicket and a few runs away from a comprehensive victory, Harbhajan spoke to bcci.tv.
He was honest about his own performance and generous in praising his younger off-spin colleague, R Ashwin. He opened up about how he copes harsh and at times, undeserved criticism and expressed his enthusiasm towards learning something new from the game every day.
This is a big game for you and the team is on the verge of a victory. A memorable 100th Test?
Obviously, this is a big game but it’s just nice to be back in the team. We’ve done well as a unit in the last four days to be where we are today. The 10th wicket partnership [between Moises Henriques and Nathan Lyon] has been frustrating for us but cricket is all about showing such character. I scored one of my Test centuries with a No. 11 batsman too. We have to ensure that we don’t take things for granted. We need to finish things off tomorrow quickly and start the series with a big win.
Everyone says that Harbhajan Singh is a different bowler when he gets a wicket. The confidence roars, the bite returns in bowling. Is that true?
I think it’s the case with most of the bowlers. When you get a wicket early in your spell your confidence goes to a different level. You bowl freely and you know exactly what you’re doing.
How would you compare your bowling performance in the first and second innings?
To be honest in the first innings I was nervous and I believe I could’ve bowled a little better than what I did. I was a bit on the shorter side and they played me mostly off the back-foot. In the second innings I tried to draw the batsmen forward and let them drive on the front foot to score runs. It was a collective plan which proved very successful for all three spinners.
The way you bowled in the second innings, would you say it was the best you’ve bowled in a long time?
I would say so. I’m pretty satisfied with the way I bowled today although I picked only two wickets. I always say that bowling well is in your hands but getting wickets depends on various other factors. My job is to try and bowl well. On my day I’ll pick a lot of wickets.
The wicket David Warner was one of your trademark dismissals. The ball went with the arm, straightened into the left-hander. Does the way you get your wickets also affect your confidence?
Most times you plan for a wicket – whether you want to get the batsman out caught in the slip, silly-point or in any other way. And it’s always nice when that plan works. It gives you that extra confidence. It might take a little longer for the plan to succeed and at times it won’t work. But you need to stick to it. If you can’t pick up wickets, put pressure on the batsman by not giving away runs.
Anil Kumble mentored you at the beginning of your international career. Do you think it’s now time for you to take a leadership role with the young India spinners?
I’ve enjoyed each and every moment spent with Anil bhai and he’s been a great role-model for me and for many of us who played along with him. I would definitely love to give whatever I have to the youngsters and help them grow in whatever way I can. The young guys must know that I’m always present for them.
Having said that, it’s not only me imparting knowledge to them; I too learn many things from them when I have a chat with them. You do get to learn a few new tricks from the younger guys that you’re not aware of. It’s always nice to have a group of three-four good bowlers.
Since you say that, did you pick up anything from the way Ashwin (7/103 and 5/90) bowled in this Test?
He bowled really well in this game. What I learnt from him was that he bowled a little quicker through the air and hence denied the batsman the time to think. With a fuller line and quick pace he had the batsman in two minds. That was exactly our plan in the second innings and he executed that very well. Every day you learn something from this game.
What impresses you the most about him?
He’s a very intelligent boy. He understands his game, knows his abilities and backs them strongly. He’s someone who tries till the very last ball, which is a great sign. I wish him all the luck and hope he continues to do well for India.
Despite playing 100 Tests and picking up 400-odd wickets, when people keep criticising you, does it hurt at times?
It does hurt at times. We try our best to do our job as well as we can. Every day you can’t come out and repeat your best performances and it’s unfair when people expect you to do that each time you step on the cricket field. It’s a bit hard to cope with at times but then you can’t hold on to it. What matters in the end is that my team-mates think that I can contribute to the team’s cause and that I am good guy to have around in the dressing room.