For the Mumbai Indians, Harbhajan has been a disaster
He is poor in his primary role as bowler, poor as a captain and absolutely terrible in his conduct on the field.
The Mumbai Indians–Kings XI Punjab match had an important ingredient that made it as entertaining it turned out to be. No, I’m not talking about monster hits or that the match see-sawing all the way to its end; it was the mind-numbingly bad bowling in the death (Mumbai gave away 68 runs in the last 5 overs and KxiP 65 runs) and the idiotic captaincy that aided it fair bit.
First, it was Harbhajan Singh’s turn. This season he has taken over the captaincy of the Mumbai franchise from Sachin Tendulkar. It can be argued that Tendulkar was the worst captain Team India has had in the last 30 years and he didn’t really cover himself in glory while captaining Mumbai either, but Harbhajan is becoming the complete package. He is poor in his primary role as bowler, poor as a captain and absolutely terrible in his conduct on the field.
Harbhajan Singh and Mumbai management, in their infinite wisdom, decide to drop Pragyan Ojha for the match, only their most effective spinner and their best bowler not named Malinga. It is possible they decided to give him some rest since he had played 6 games on the trot or, they wanted to bring in Robin Peterson and see what he is capable of.
What was more baffling was that even though Peterson did give just 3 runs in his first over, he wasn’t asked to bowl again. Another allrounder in the side, James Franklin bowled just one over giving away just 7 runs while taking a wicket. Instead, Harbhajan bowled himself and frittered away the advantage with an abysmal return of 29/0 in 3 overs. If James Franklin is only in the side for his batting, Mumbai probably have a better choice than Franklin, in Richard Levi to open the batting along with Tendulkar.
David Hussey, who along with David Miller, dug his side out of a hole to reach a competitive score (168 runs), showed that he wasn’t ready to take the reins in Adam Gilchrist’s absence. He bowled out his best wicket taking option, Awana, by the 18th over and sent Piyush Chawla to get slaughtered in the 19th over. Hussey did a good job of saving one over of Azhar Mahmood but he missed a trick by sneaking a over of himself when he had Mumbai under pressure and had new batsmen at the crease. @HomerTweets, a Mumbai Indians fan, even as Mumbai were facing long odds, was optimistic because he could “bank on David Hussey’s captaincy”. And so it came to pass.
The fireworks by Ambati Rayadu and Robin Peterson, and before them Rohit Sharma, should not mask what has been a thoroughly disappointing handling of resources by Harbhajan Singh. Even more disappointing has been the way Harbhajan has been conducting himself on the field. The incident in the Mumbai-Deccan game where he and Munaf Patel, although were right in asking the umpire to reconsider his decision, conducted themselves was shameful. This match also saw several moments where Harbhajan and Munaf berate the fielders for their own incompetence.
The dip (rather the precipitous decline) in Harbhajan’s bowling form has coincided with his increased on-field petulance. Although he led Mumbai to the Champions League T20, the IPL is a long grind and he is being shown to be not so good with the reins in his hand. Punjab can look forward to Gilchrist coming back, and David Hussey at least warrants a spot in the playing XI as a very good batsman and an outstanding fielder, Mumbai do not have any of that luxury. They are saddled with Harbhajan the bowler and Harbhajan the captain, and just have to hope the rest of the team carries the slack.
About the author: Subash is a cricket blogger and podcaster based in the US. His introduction to Cricket began with enduring sledges from his elder brothers during their many backyard cricket sessions. He supports Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. He blogs at http://thecricketcouch.com and can be found on Twitter @thecricketcouch.
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