Vintage Harbhajan turns the clock back

Harbhajan Singh's three-wicket burst set up CSK's win over Royal Challengers in Bangalore on Saturday. PTI

At 38, Harbhajan Singh is well past his prime but on a helpful surface, it was vintage stuff from the off-spinner as he powered Chennai Super Kings to a big win in the opening contest of the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League here at the MA Chidambaram stadium.

With an effort of 4-0-20-3, Harbhajan was adjudged the man of the match in CSK’s seven-wicket thumping of the Royal Challengers Bangalore. The Punjab bowler had last won a man of the match award in 2015. Imran Tahir too bagged a three-wicket haul but it was Harbhajan who laid the foundation for CSK’s dominant show by dismissing the dreaded duo of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.   

“I don’t play too much cricket so it’s difficult to judge what kind of form I am in and what I can bring to the table. Chennai had faith in me and I thank the management. I was asked to bowl the second over and that shows CSK’s trust in me. People may think I am old but you can’t take away my experience. As a senior, this is the kind of performance expected from me and it was nice to dismiss Virat and AB,” Harbhajan said at the post-match press conference.  

Chennai has been Harbhajan’s happy hunting ground. His 15-wicket haul for the match that helped India achieve a famous Test series win against Australia here in 2001 is considered as one of his finest performances. 

“It’s always nice to come to Chepauk. I was going through some pictures of that Test match on the eve of this game and it felt nice to come out and perform well the next day,” he said.  

Over the last couple of years, the game has witnessed a rise of wrist spinners with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal being India’s potent weapons in the limited overs format. Harbhajan, however, felt the finger spinners still have a huge role to play.

“Wrist spinners have variety. They bowl the flipper, googly and top spin. Today, people think if a bowler can spin the ball both ways he has a better chance of getting into the team than a finger spinner. But I believe finger spinners have a role to play if you back them. Of course, spinners should work on spinning the ball more. Someone like Ravindra Jadeja, as long as he spins the ball, is always an integral part of the team. I am not thinking too much about the World Cup but I feel Jadeja can be the X factor for India in the World Cup. He is a gun fielder and he can bat too,” Harbhajan offered.

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