Selectors overlook Harbhajan Singh for the second Test

Harbhajan Singh went wicket-less while leading Punjab in the Ranji Trophy match against Uttar Pradesh Getty Images

New Delhi: Nov 10, 2011

Ace off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was overlooked again as the Indian selectors Thursday named an unchanged 15-member squad for the second cricket Test against the West Indies starting in Kolkata Monday.

As India took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series against the West Indies, the selectors decided to retain the side for the second Test at the Eden Gardens.

It was the young spin duo of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and debutant offie Ravichandran Ashwin, who played the key role in the five-wicket win at the Feroze Shah Kotla here as the match finished with one-and-a-half day to spare.

Ojha and Ashwin together picked up 16 wickets that shut the door on Harbhajan, who is now stranded on 98 Tests. Ojha, playing his first Test after a year, bagged his maiden five-wicket haul (6/72) in the first innings and finished with a match haul of seven for 109.

But it was Ashwin, Man of the Match, who turned the match in India’s favour with his superb six for 47 in the second innings. Ashwin ended with a match haul of nine for 128, the second best performance by an Indian debutant after Narendra Hirwani’s 16 for 136 in 1988, also against the West Indies.

What made matters worse for Harbhajan was that he went wicket-less while leading Punjab in the Ranji Trophy match against Uttar Pradesh.

Harbhajan was overlooked during the four-match ODI series against England at home before being dropped for the first Test against the West Indies at home. The 31-year-old feisty off-spinner suffered a stomach injury during the second Test in England and was ruled out of the last two matches and the limited-overs series that followed.

Punjab’s rookie leg-spinner Rahul Sharma, who was a surprise pick in the Test squad, also retained his place.

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was not forthright when asked, during Wednesday’s post-match press conference, how difficult it would be for Harbhajan to make a comeback.

“Let us see because Ashwin has played one game, Ojha has done well. Let us see how it goes,” said Dhoni.(IANS)