In a recent interview Bajji (Harbhajan Singh) told the media that his captain Dhoni had told him to concentrate on batting a bit more. This shows Dhoni’s desperation for a good all rounder in the team. Bajji for his part has done a brilliant job as he has been contributing consistently in Tests and scored 4 fifties last year. But is this the right path for the premier spinner in the Indian team? Bajji’s primary role in the team should be to take wickets and help his side to win more games and anything other than that should be a bonus.
Since Kapil retired from all forms of cricket in 94/95 the Indian team has been in search of an able all rounder to replace the legend but has been largely unsuccessful in doing so. India tried out various options in the mid and late nineties but none of them were able to fill the big void Kapil had left in the squad. In the last 15 years the only player who came close to filling that spot was Irfan Pathan. Irfan was a brilliant bowler when he made his debut in 2004 and was more than useful with the bat.
But unfortunately things went downhill for Irfan after his first year in International cricket. During “Guru” Greg’s tenure as Indian coach things changed for Irfan as he was used more as a batsman in the ODI squad. He bowling declined due to that switch and Irfan now is no more a regular fixture in the Indian team. Dhoni and Kirsten need to be careful as they wouldn’t want Bajji to follow that route.
India needs to unearth a bowling all rounder from the domestic scene to fill the all rounder spot. Irfan himself is an option. In the recent ODI against the Aussies, Bajji and Praveen almost pulled off an improbable victory. Can Praveen Kumar be a candidate for the all rounder spot? You never know. The Indian think tank need to make sure that they don’t put too much pressure on the Indian bowlers to perform with the bat, since that may affect their bowling. Yes the bowlers need to contribute with the bat but should be a bonus and not their primary role.
Australia during their prime played with some bits and pieces all rounders but was still able to win due to a good bowling attack. India needs to keep that in mind, even though an all rounder is an important cog in the wheel of a successful team, specialists are essential too. As the Indian team continues to search for an all rounder, the Bajji’s and Praveen’s can concentrate on what they do best that is to win games with their bowling and their batting contributions should just be a bonus.