Harbhajan Singh picked up only one wicket in the first Test © AFP
Harbhajan Singh picked up only one wicket in the first Test © AFP

Harbhajan Singh got a surprise place in India’s squad during the one-off Test against Bangladesh earlier this year. He managed to take three wickets in that match but did not look particularly impressive. He retained his spot in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle. However, on a pitch where every other spinner from either side managed to turn the ball a long way, he looked largely like a part-timer. His spell in the second innings at Galle was particularly poor. Shiamak Unwalla feels that India will be much better off bringing Stuart Binny or Cheteshwar Pujara in place of Harbhajan for the second Test at Colombo.

The six batsman-five bowler combination is always a risky one, especially if you lack an all-rounder. Even Australia at their peak would have Adam Gilchrist (who averaged 47.60 in Tests) bat at No. 7 more often than not. So when India went into the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle with six batsmen (including a wicketkeeper whose Test average is less than 20) and five bowlers, they were up for trouble. Ravichandran Ashwin’s 6 for 46: Best bowling figures for India in Sri Lanka

What was most baffling about India’s team composition was the inclusion of three spinners. On a pitch like Galle which is traditionally a difficult one for the batsmen it was always unlikely that the match would go very far into Day Five, which means that it was highly doubtful that any bowler would have to bowl a marathon spell. Sure enough, the longest spell any bowler bowled was 33 overs by Rangana Herath in India’s first innings. Virat Kohli scores four centuries in his first four Tests as captain

Playing five bowlers would have made sense if India were playing at Perth or Durban with three pacers. At Galle, three spinners was overkill. Ravichandran Ashwin was always going to be India’s best bowler, and Amit Mishra offered the necessary variety. Harbhajan Singh was therefore reduced to redundancy, and his match figures of 1 for 90 proved just how little India needed him. India would have been much better served playing Cheteshwar Pujara, even if he had to bat at No. 6 instead of higher up the order. Pujara has been India’s best batsman on a crumbling surface in the past; few would forget his pristine unbeaten 82 off 92 balls against Australia on a crumbling Day Five Feroz Shah Kotla track. India vs Sri Lanka 2015, 1st Test at Galle: Statistical highlights

In the end, India will have to make one forced change at Colombo with Shikhar Dhawan missing the rest of the series with an injury. Murali Vijay will most likely take his place, but India should make at least one more change to the side, with Harbhajan missing out. If Virat Kohli is convinced on going in with a fifth bowling option, Stuart Binny could be the man to make the cut. Binny was in good form with both bat and ball during India’s recent ODI series in Zimbabwe, and he will bolster the batting order while providing backup as the fifth bowler as well. On the other hand, India could go in with a more conventional approach and recall Pujara to bat at No. 6 ahead of Wriddhiman SahaRangana Herath: An ode to the rotund banker

 (Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)