Harbhajan Singh is a nice guy. He has good spirit and can lift the mood of the dressing room. He’s also up for a fight each time he steps on to the ground. The opposition doesn’t like him; his team-mates (with the exception of perhaps Sreesanth) love him. He also always ready to give the media a nice, juicy quote.
But are these qualities enough for the BCCI to give him a Grade B contract worth Rs 50 lakhs? Well, apparently they are because based solely on his bowling; he should be out of a contract at this point.
The Grade A contract (worth a crore) features nine players (Sachin Tendulkar, M S Dhoni, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin) this year – they are all players who command a place in at least the Test or ODI team by right.
The Grade B contract (worth 50 lakhs) features Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav – with the exception of Harbhajan they are all players who are making a comeback or are looked at as players for the future.
The Grade C (worth 25 lakhs) features Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Vinay Kumar, Munaf Patel, Abhimanyu Mithun, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv Patel, Manoj Tiwary, S Badrinath, Piyush Chawla, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Sharma, Varun Aaron, Abhinav Mukund, Ashok Dinda, Yusuf Pathan, Praveen Kumar, L Balaji. The players in this Grade are a mix -- players who have fallen by the wayside and others who have struggled to get back after injury.
And if anything Harbhajan falls in the Grade C contract or he doesn’t deserve a contract at all. He last played a Test for India in July 2011; he last played at ODI for India in June 2011 and only recently made his comeback in the T20 format for a match against England at the World T20 tournament.
Yes, he has 400-plus wickets in Tests but he is clearly a bowler in decline, so let’s not talk about numbers. His performance in the World T20 didn’t show any great improvement – so it’s hard to see what he is doing in the Grade B category. Did the BCCI want to spare him the embarrassment of being without a contract?
But it does mean that he still figures in India’s future plans and that is baffling as well. He is the perfect example of an India player who is still living on past glory.
Harbhajan went off to Essex to try and get his bowling back on line during his time outside the Indian team but even there, according to people who saw him bowl, he was still playing a game of darts.
A Grade B contract means that you are a player who plays pretty regularly but are still not certain of getting picked in every game. Harbhajan is not that kind of player anymore, in fact he’s not been that kind of player anymore.