Home > Features >

Harbhajan completes his century, but the series could be do-or-die for him

Harbhajan completes his century, but the series could be do-or-die for him

Harbhajan Singh (above) is only the second off-spinner in the history of the game, after Muttiah Muralitharan to play 100 Test matches © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

In a career that has seen exhilarating highs and stunning lows, Harbhajan Singh has overcome the vicissitudes of life to earn the rare honour of playing his 100th Test — only the second off-spinner in the history of the game to reach the milestone after the incomparable Muttiah Muralitharan.

Harbhajan has been under a siege with his plummeting fortunes and one wondered if he would get to play his 100th Test, especially considering Ravichandran Ashwin’s success and forging a promising partnership with Pragyan Ojha.

“You have to be a very good player to be picked a 100 times for your country and at most times Harbhajan has been a very good player,” tweeted Harsha Bhogle. And Harbhajan has been an extraordinarily successful, especially at the start of his career. There is no question that his track-record against the Australians which has helped him greatly to be first selected in the Indian squad and then in the playing XI at Chennai in the first Test against Michael Clarke’s men.

Harbhajan thus became the tenth Indian to play 100 Test matches; Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, both playing the Chennai Test, are part of that elite club.

It is a tremendous achievement for a spinner to last the test of time and feature in 100 games. Harbhajan joins Anil Kumble in that category — the man who passed the baton to him as India’s spin spearhead. In all, 54 men have played 100 Test matches and only four of them are specialist spinners. Shane Warne (145), Muttiah Muralitharan (133), Kumble (132) and Daniel Vettori (112) are the specialist tweakers in the list.

The ups and downs

If one breaks Harbhajan’s Test career into four halves, one would find that the latter part hasn’t been as rewarding as the early phase. The 2001 series against Australia was the turning point of his fledging career and there were times when he was preferred to the veteran Kumble. However, Kumble then made a remarkable recovery and Harbhajan could only assert his role once the leg-spinner called it a day. Perhaps, some of those breaks may have hampered his rhythm, but his form dropped drastically since 2010 — a point where he was indisputably India’s first choice spinner.

Break-up of Harbhajan’s Test career (per 25 matches):

T W Ave BBI BBM 5WI 10WM
Test No   1 to Test No 25 25 107 27.95 8-84 15-217 8 2
Test No 26 to Test No 50 25 112 27.80 7-48 11-224 9 2
Test No 51 to Test No 75 25 102 36.40 6-63 10-153 6 1
Test No 76 to Test No 99 24 87 38.50 7-120 8-123 2 0
Total 99 408 32.27 8-84 15-217 25 5

Harbhajan’s diminishing returns are quite evident in the above table. In his first quarter, he averaged 27.95 and bettered it in the next with 27.80. However, in his last 49 Test matches he has averaged in the late 30s — not the kind of figures one expects from a strike-bowler.

Harbhajan’s third quarter was fine wickets-wise, but his average indicates that he cost more per wicket. However, the drastic drop was evident in the last 24 matches as his average went up to 38.50. He had only two fifers to show in this period. One can say that in the fourth phase, he hasn’t been the same bowler who stunned the Aussies in 2001 or usurped Kumble’s spot in the team.

India look set to test Australia with spin and Harbhajan returns to face the old enemy. That he is playing his 100th game against a side he has troubled the most makes the occasion even more special. The whole setting will definitely motivate him to make a statement and resurrect his international career.

The series against Australia could be do-or-die for Harbhajan’s Test career.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 30, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 2, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Khulna

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 5, 2014 (14:05 IST)   at Adelaide

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 6, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Ahmedabad

More

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 15, 2014  at Ahmedabad

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 7, 2014  at Bengaluru

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 30, 2014  at Hyderabad

Match cancelled

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014  at Hamilton

No result

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 3 wkts

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test

Videos

Tendulkar provides teaser on upcoming book

Live Cricket Score Duleep Trophy Central Zone vs South Zone, final at Delhi Day 3: Jalaj Saxena brings up half-century

Live Cricket Score Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test at Abu Dhabi Day 2

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Younis Khan continues piling up records for Pakistan

Younis Khan’s ban: why the ICC is justified

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Central Zone Duleep Trophy Duleep Trophy 2014-15 India Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Zone South Zone vs Central Zone Sri Lanka Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

Jesse Ryder claims he still has the passion to represent New Zealand in the ICC World Cup 2015

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Allan Border claims Michael Clarke’s field setting ‘against spirit of cricket’

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: David Warner to keep wickets after Brad Haddin injures shoulder

Duleep Trophy 2014-15 final: Ali Murtaza, Piyush Chawla restrict South Zone to 379; Central trail by 35 runs at lunch

Jesse Ryder gets World Cup 2015 lifeline; picked for New Zealand A squad to tour UAE

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Younis Khan continues piling up records for Pakistan

Mythbusting — the claim that playing for a weaker batting side handicaps a batsman has no basis

Younis Khan’s ban: why the ICC is justified

KL Rahul could be opening option for India’s tour to Australia

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

678 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Younis Khan century during Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test at Dubai

India A vs Sri Lanka: Fringe players look to impress

NGOs pursue education for all

Dance Basanti from Ungli: Put on your dancing shoes and practice the Basanti move!

Weight Loss Tip #59: Eat oranges to lose weight

Sensex surges 150 points in early trade to regain 27,000-mark

PricewaterhouseCoopers partners Google to offer business solutions to clients

Google X Lab working on nanoparticles to help detect diseases early

Priyanka Chopra has the best no make-up selfie on Instagram, think fans!

Lisa Haydon: I slept off midway while watching the original Shaukeen!

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here