After his sensational four for 12 against England, Harbhajan Singh was touted to have returned to his best, and was even seen as the biggest hope in India’s World Cup campaign. After he has been brought down crashing to the ground by David Warner, Arunabha Sengupta wonders if the media is perhaps a bit too quick in making such sweeping conclusions.
Must instant cricket by induction make our conclusions instant as well? And fickle to boot?
In the ongoing Twenty20 World Cup encounter between India and England, the cream of young English batting went about playing spin like a herd of elephants sleep-walking on ice that was both slippery and wafer-thin.
It was not necessary to turn the ball to have them twisted into most picturesque knots, as Piyush Chawla so ably demonstrated. Just running in and pretending to spin the ball seemed to do the trick, leaving the rest to the wonderful young men with the redundant bats. A lot of the future English stalwarts seemed to believe that slow bowling is best met head on with the most obscure edges of the bat. The willows were wielded at angles that would challenge the most flexible of contortionists. Even the rather stretchable range of T20 common sense was given as wide a berth as possible during their brief stand-up comedy act.
One wonders what figures Lakshmipathy Balaji would have returned had he bowled from three paces and made a show of doing something with his fingers.
Chawla finished with two for 13. And in the circumstances, Harbhajan Singh’s four wickets for 12 was at best a commendable performance.
Yet, the reactions that followed went beyond the highest hyperboles. On television we heard from reputed voices that it had been aptly demonstrated that class is permanent. Stories were flashed in the media showing the return of the “Turbanator”, often as the suddenly discovered Messiah who would take us to T20 glory.
In the gamut of action today, increasingly repetitive and dangerously shorn of noteworthiness, it is expected that the media will fall back on inexact clichés, and try turning a relatively soft murmur of hope into a deafening roar through a crescendo of nonsensical echoes. However, a sense of balance in reactions seems to be the urgent need of the hour.
Harbhajan has been out of the team for a reason. In his last Test series he took two wickets for 287 runs. In the last domestic season, he managed two wickets for 204 runs from 75 overs. In T20 this year, before the World Cup, he had bagged just six wickets for 384 runs.
Are four overs against a pathetic English side enough to prove that he has got over the huge saga of insipid performances? Twenty-four balls against a team bowled out in less than 15 overs, losing the match at the thought of slow, turning balls?
Every bowler was taken to the cleaners against Australia on Friday. Yet, the second over of Harbhajan, in which David Warner got stuck into him, demonstrated the dangers of flamboyantly jumping to such far-reaching conclusions based on flimsy evidence.
It may still be that Harbhajan has got his flight, turn, bounce and confidence back after his stint for Essex. But, one does desire a little more responsible and patient analysis from the numerous experts who flood the cricket world today. Sometimes one has to observe for a little more than four overs.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)