Friday, Dec 03, 2004
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In 41 Test matches Harbhajan Singh has picked up five wickets in an innings 15 times. That's like a batsman getting 15 hundreds in 41 Test matches. That you would describe as `Bradmanesque'. There is no cricketing terminology like that for a bowler yet, so I will just call it staggering!
Seven for 87 on a pitch that wasn't `Mumbai', to get South Africa all out for 222 in the second innings is just an incredible effort. More so when you consider that the whole of India had focused their attention on their Turbanator to do the job and that in spite of an in-form Anil Kumble being in the side. You can only begin to imagine the pressure on the young Sikh. Once again he showed that famous Punjab spirit to deliver when most needed.
I asked him how he prepares himself when there is so much expectation before an innings, also knowing well the wrath that could follow if he did not come up with a match winning performance. He said: "I leave it to god." This I tell you is actually smart thinking. What this does, and he knows this very well, is that it takes a lot of pressure off him and then he simply does what he is good at, which is just bowl.
It might be good idea for Sachin Tendulkar to use this Harbhajan philosophy. Tendulkar as we have seen in recent times, just takes too much load on himself. Maybe he could off load some of it and like Harbhajan "leave it to god."
I was especially pleased in this Test match to see that Harbhajan had three batsmen out trying to drive the ball, two of them were out, caught & bowled, Kallis being one in the morning. Harbhajan before this had only five caught and bowled dismissals in his career. For an off spinner who flights the ball so well that to me was far too less. He had two in this Test match. That was great to see. He should keep reminding himself that along with the three catching men that he always has, the slip and the two bat pad fielders, there is one very important catcher that will get him even more wickets and that is, himself.
Harbhajan's great spell on the last day morning must have taken the pressure off Sourav Ganguly immensely. That spell guaranteed him a win. A lesser feat from Harbhajan and a draw would have been quite a possible result. That would also have meant daggers out for the Indian captain again.
With the Bangladesh tour coming up after this, there would be some breathing time for the Indian captain. With nerves relaxed, it is a good time to introspect and come up with the answers to this slump in batting form.
It has been said over the years that India's strength has always been its batting and interestingly, once again, it's the bowlers that have won the series for India.
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