"Every day I wake up with a dream and that is to get back into that Indian side," Harbhajan Singh said after Mumbai Indians' win over Chennai Super Kings in the IPL Qualifier 1. The off-spinner had played a crucial role in the victory scalping the wickets of Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni and finishing with figures of 4-0-26-2.
Harbhajan last played for India two years ago, against Australia at Hyderabad. His dream came true almost 12 hours after the CSK match as the selection committee announced his name in the Test squad for Bangladesh. There were a lot of eyebrows raised and there was a lot of outrage on social media on his selection.
But there is a strong logic behind his selection. At a press conference following the selection meeting, Sandeep Patil, the chairman of selectors, said, "The Bangladesh batting order has six left-handers. Keeping that in mind, we discussed with the captain and we felt it was necessary to have a second offspinner. I also want to point out we not only discussed Harbhajan, we also discussed other youngsters and considered them. Ultimately the selection committee and the captain felt this was the right choice for this particular tour."
Two off-spinners against Bangladesh left-handers on Bangladesh tracks is a sensible decision. Harbhajan has done well in the IPL and is the second-highest wicket-taker with 16 wickets. But there is a counter question - what has Harbhajan done in the Ranji Trophy?
Yes, Harbhajan hasn't done well in the 2014/15 Ranji season - he's played just three matches and picked up six wickets at 42.50. But a look at the Ranji stats shows a lack of genuine candidates to back up R Ashwin.
Who are the off-spinners that have set the domestic stage on fire in the last few years? There is only one name that comes to mind — Parveez Rasool. But he too had an off season last year with 13 wickets from 8 matches at 50.23.
The off-spinners who did well last season were Swarupam Purkayastha of Assam who scalped 36 wickets at 17.50, Malolan Rangarajan of Tamil Nadu who took 36 wickets at 28.75 and Jayant Yadav of Haryana who scalped 33 wickets at 17.66. But the trio is highly inexperienced — the three have played just 14, 25 and 29 First-Class matches respectively.
Sunil Gavaskar said that the selection of Harbhajan shows the dearth of quality off-spinners in India. "Certainly it is not a good sign. It shows that we don't have many good off-spinners around who are pressing for a place in the team," Gavaskar told NDTV.
Bangladesh cricket has shown signs the team is finally coming of age. They reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time, then whitewashed Pakistan in a three match ODI series and beat them in the sole T20 before losing a closely fought Test series 1-0.
In this situation, it is probable that Harbhajan's experience tipped the scales in his favour.
Harbhajan might not make the playing XI for the one-off Test, or he may play and fail and it could end up being his last Test. But that is in the future. For now, the selectors have taken the right decision given the lack of off-spin talent in the country.
Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.
Updated Date: May 21, 2015 15:35:47 IST