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Is there hope beyond Kumble and Harbhajan?


Anil Kumble and Harbhajan SinghHarbhajan Singh has made a comeback to the Indian Test squad. This is coincidental that he has returned to India’s Test squad against the team that gave India a super drubbing in England. But by no means, Harbhajan is going to lead the spin attack. In fact, considering the form R Ashwin & Pragyan Ojha are in, especially in India, Harbhajan’s selection is for the slot of third spinner (back-up option). This is saddening, considering the wickets he has taken at international cricket across formats for India. Although the desire to regain the spot is stronger, his form has been indifferent to let his desire bear fruit. Fortunately for him and unfortunately for Indian cricket, there are not too many spinners who can make life of an Indian selector a bit easier. Although worth debating, there are not too many who can claim the slot for the 3rd spinner in India’s test squad. But is it discouraging if you are a budding spinner in India? I believe not.

When in college, one of my professors always used to say that there exists an opportunity in chaos. If one can apply the same principle in this case, the budding spinners ought to look at the opportunity the dearth of quality spinners in India is going to provide them with. And by no means being an opportunist a bad trait all the time. In fact, the Indian selectors will be more than willing to have such opportunists in the team rather than those who keep on mulling about the lack of quality spinners in India. Hence, the upcoming spinners have to make sure that they keep on trying and go through the grind of any form of cricket that helps them showcase their talent. While the formats of cricket might have transformed over the years, the basics of spin bowling have not changed much. It is the same process of rip/toss the ball, pitch it in the right areas, generate bounce, use guile and earn wickets. And no matter which format/level you play at; school, college, age-group, club, domestic and then international, the variations might get added, but the process is not going to change much.

Hence, if the budding spinner is ready to toil hard, the doors of getting into Team India are wide open. Yes, parallels will be drawn amongst cricket fans and experts about how he is different/similar to Kumble or Harbhajan or their predecessors. But there is no need to feel bogged down by such parallels. The budding spinners have to remember that, even Kumble was an object of fun for many. And Harbhajan was criticised for being too firebrand sort of a player. Kumble did not turn the ball like Shane Warne did, but he certainly had the heart to bowl 40 overs in a day of a Test match and keep on adding variations in his bowling arsenal. Those 600 plus wickets in Test matches don’t come easily anyway.

For long, India has been a country that produced spinners as efficiently as Ghana produces cocoa. While Ghana continues to be one of the top ranked cocoa producing countries, India has fallen behind in the production of highest quality spinners. But if a country like Ghana can dig in deep to hold on to its status of one of the top ranked cocoa producing countries, then so can India if amateur spinners are ready to make their way upwards.

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