When Anil Kumble retired in 2008 everyone expected Harbajan to easily slip into the role of India’s lead spinner. Unfortunately 4 years since then Harbajan finds himself out of the Indian test team and fighting for a spot even in the ODI/T20 teams. Harbajan has had a long run in the Indian team and can still make a comeback with age on his side. But for the moment, Ravi Ashwin has done a great job for the Indian team in all formats. His test performances at home have been brilliant. He also has consistently contributed with the bat averaging 39 at number 7 which is an added bonus.
He just had one away tour of Australia and he did not perform well. Australia isn’t a great place for young spinners to tour and sometime for even experienced ones. Murali averages 75 in Australia and almost all visiting spinners average in mid to late 30’s there. So Judging Ashwin on just one away tour to Australia is not fair. The experts crying about Ashwin’s performances in Australia need to realize that Harbajan himself hasn’t done anything of note on recent away tours.
Harbajan was given an extended run in the Indian team after his breakthrough series against Australia in 2001 and Ashwin deserves similar run as India’s premier spinner. So far he has done a good job and needs to be persisted with for now. He needs to be given the confidence that he will not have to worry about his place in the side. Harbajan is 32 now and is not getting any younger and India needs to keep the future in mind. Bajji can still make a comeback but at the moment he hasn’t done anything of note to displace either Ojha or Ashwin in the test team.
Currently though his partnership with Ojha has been good for India in home tests and there is no need to tamper with that combination. Harbajan needs to prove himself again by playing few first class games and force his way back in. As of now let Ashwin lead the Indian spin attack for the next 10-15 tests and then take a call on his place