It was brilliant to watch Bajji play in the last couple of games. Coming into the 5th day at Ahmadabad, India was starring at an embarrassing defeat against 8th ranked New Zealand. Bajji who walked out to bat with Laxman batted brilliantly to save the game for the Indians with a brilliant hundred, his first in test cricket. He followed up that innings with another blistering hundred in the next game in Hyderabad to prove that the innings in the first test was not a fluke by any means.
So great news, we have unearthed a good lower order batsman but have we lost a bowler in the process? Rewind 4 years back to another case of similar transition which ruined a career of a promising bowler. Irfan Pathan was a brilliant find for India and for couple of years since his debut in 2004 he was a good new ball bowler who can bat a bit. Later for some reason his bowling took a back seat and he started batting so well that he could have walked into the X1 just as a batsman. The team management though said that he needs to concentrate on his bowling as it was his primary skill and sent him back home in the middle of an overseas tour. Is the management ready to take the same decision with Bajji if the trend continues?
Indian bowling has suffered really badly in recent times. The number 1 ranking and the brilliant win/loss record does not give us the complete picture. The truth is that the Indian bowlers have been hugely benefitted by the great batting line up. The Indian batting has been able to rake up tall scores, which helped the bowlers to put pressure on the batting sides to force a result. Harbajan Singh also has struggled as a bowler over the last couple of years. Except for couple of performances, one against New Zealand last year and one against South Africa earlier this year, he has been largely mediocre. To be frank none of the spinners have looked the part in the recent years.
If we look at Bajji’s record this year, you will see that he has really struggled with this bowling; he averages 44.72 with the ball this year with just one 5 wicket haul. His batting though has had an upswing as with his recent exploits, he has an impressive average of 33 with 2 hundreds. To be frank as an Indian supporter I would like to see Bajji contribute more with his bowling rather than with his batting. Indian bowling struggles without Zaheer and the spin department has been in a mess for over 2 years now since the retirement of Anil Kumble. Harbajan Singh was supposed to take the mantle from the great Kumble but unfortunately he has struggled to step into his shoes.
I am not sure how to take his sudden surge in batting form. Even though his three innings have helped India immensely in this ongoing series, his bowling has been a huge let down. He has one more match to redeem himself before we set out to South Africa next month. India would surely need a decent performance from him against South Africa to complement the pace attack if we have to challenge the host. Only the coming months will tell us how his career will shape out. If he continues to perform badly with the ball, in spite of his valuable batting the selectors might want to look for other options. I hope that Bajji doesn’t follow in Irfan’s footsteps and rediscovers his bowling form. India needs Bajji the bowler more than Bajji the batsmen in the coming months which I am sure he is very well aware of.