Harbhajan Singh’s splendid performance against the Rajasthan Royals in the Champions League T20 2013 final again brought to light how he prospers with Anil Kumble around. Aayush Puthran tries to analyse the off-spinner’s impact with and without his mentor and former teammate Kumble.
One of the most memorable scenes from the movie Kung Fu Panda was a dialogue between Shifu the Master and Po the Panda, wherein the former tried to convince the big fat panda that he had the potential to be the Dragon Warrior and save his land from destruction with his Kung Fu, an art he hadn’t even learnt.
Although a fictional movie, Kung Fu Panda, like many other animated movies had a way of reflecting reality in a subtle and humorous way. For there have been enough instances of how a pupil prospered under a certain master to the league of glory and seemed an altogether different person, far removed from his earlier deeds, without him.
The case with Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble seems to be threading a similar path. It has to be one of those relationships where the pupil prospered till the time his idol was around him. What was exciting in the period of those 10 years was the fact that both of them were vying to become India’s premier spinner in Tests. And fortunately for the team, that brought out the best in both.
Here is a list of the highest wicket-takers from the period of Harbhajan’s debut till Kumble’s retirement:
| Anil Kumble
| Brett Lee
While on one hand, Harbhajan formed an extremely destructive pair with Kumble through the first decade of the 21st century, he seems to be doing little right in his absence. Instead of taking over the mantle of the senior spinner, the offie has lost his zing and failed to trouble batsmen. Here is an overview of Harbhajan’s statistics while Kumble was around and after his retirement in 2008.
While Harbhajan did maintain to be the No 1 spinner for India in One-Day Internationals (ODI) in the presence of Kumble, the retirement of the latter, after the ICC World Cup 2007, had an impact on his performances in the 50-over format too.
Although his form has dipped in the last five years, he played a crucial role in India’s ICC World Cup 2011 triumph. However, it has been nearly two years since he has played in the 50-over format.
However, with Kumble joining the Mumbai Indians support staff in 2013, Harbhajan seemed to regain his vintage class. Although his bowling lacked turn, it proved to be effective as he had two successful campaigns with the franchise in the 2013 editions of the Indian Premier League and the Champions League T20.
The spinner from Jalandhar has made his appreciation of Kumble vocal, admitting the role of the senior spinner in his growth. It can’t be just co-incidence or a magnetic effect that the off-spinner has brought out his best, while he had his spin partner around him. Because what Harbhajan has been going through, can’t be just called a lean patch as it has been stretching for four years. There is a missing zing, a missing fighter. Maybe, it will take a Kumble to bring that out in Harbhajan!
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)