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Is he really back?


Harbhajan SinghThe skip with the arms spreading out wide and the chest popping out was missing. The yelling at fielders was not as much. The aggressive celebration was the same but the bowler seemed slightly different. Harbhajan Singh made a splendid comeback in the match against England in the ongoing World T20. His first wicket that of Eoin Morgan was off a delivery that went straight on and crashed into the stumps. Morgan had no clue about the delivery and tried to cut it off the back foot. Harbhajan would have said to himself, ‘What a rookie,’ because Bhajji is by far, not one.

Though it was an English team who played spin like they pronounce Asian names, Harbhajan’s comeback was quite impressive. He tossed the ball up to the right handers and invited them to drive. He used his variations more frequently and kept the batsmen guessing, something he was averse to doing before he was dropped from the Indian team. There are coaches who say variations should be used as a surprise element. This may have been one reason why Bhajji used the doosra sparingly. The other one could be the ‘chucking’ issue. However, in T20s becoming predictable is as dangerous as bungee jumping with a bungee cord made in China.

Harbhajan had figures of 4-2-12-4. Two maidens in a T20 game is a successful comeback in itself. Four wickets is more than what anybody can ask for. It was a dream comeback for Harbhajan Singh. After being out of the Indian squad for a long time, he would have been eager to do well. Perhaps this was what was missing before. As a senior in the side, he may have started taking his place for granted. For a long time, he was safe because of the lack of options. But with the emergence of Ashwin he needed to lift his performance. By that time batsmen had figured him out and he had lost all his guile and deception. He had been reduced to a bowler who shot darts at speeds that rivalled that of Indian pacers. Such bowlers contain batsmen but rarely get wickets.

Psychological theory suggests a certain amount of anxiety is necessary for optimum performance. Too little suggests an apathy towards the task. Too much and one will not be able to be productive. Harbhajan for the first time after a long while looked a bit nervous about his bowling. He wasn't too bothered about all the other things. His concentration was reserved for the batsman and the ball in hand. He bowled slower and beat batsmen in flight. The lengths he hit were good. He unleashed his full repertoire keeping the batsmen guessing. The end result – he came good.

From recent pointers, he looks all set to be a regular in this team at the expense of a fast bowler perhaps. However, this performance does not mean Harbhajan is back. He has rarely been able to back up a good match with another one and at this juncture he cannot afford a bad game. We can only hope that spurs him on...

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