India waiting for Harbhajan to hit his straps

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> One of the shady areas in an otherwise outstanding team effort was the bowling of Harbhajan Singh, the feisty off spinner who seems to have hit a plateau i

Updated: October 29, 2009 12:43 IST
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India notched up a comprehensive 99-run victory over the world's No.1 one-day team Australia at Nagpur on Wednesday, which may lead to glossing over some gray areas by the team management.

One of those shady areas in an otherwise outstanding team effort was the bowling of Harbhajan Singh, the feisty off spinner who seems to have hit a plateau in the ODIs against Australia are concerned.

The Punjab bowler, whose exploits with the bat in the company of Praveen Kumar nearly brought off a sensational victory in the first ODI at Vadodara on October 25, has looked innocuous in his bowling in the two innings so far against Australia.

Figures of one for 57 and one for 62 do no credit to a bowler who is seen as the trump card for India in the slow bowling department.

Not just the lack of success, but the way the Australian batsmen have tackled him is an indication that his wicket drought is no flash in the pan.

Overall since his first match against the top team in 1998, Harbhajans record against Australia, as compared to his overall one in ODIs, is nothing much to boost about.

In 30 ODIs so far against Australia, Harbhajan has bowled 270 overs and grabbed only 26 wickets at a high average of close to 50.

His strike rate of a wicket every 62 balls and an economy rate inching close to the 5-run-per-over mark is also a giveaway to his lack of penetration or effectiveness against the free-stroking batsmen from Down Under.

In the last two years, since the seven-match rubber at home in October 2007, Harbhajan Singh's best effort against the four-time World Cup winners is two for 38 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2008.

He has only one other two-wicket haul, two for 43, during the earlier best-of-seven contest to show for in his last 14 matches over the last two years against Australia. On six of those occasions he went wicket-less and he has conceded over 50 runs on half a dozen times in the period under consideration.

However, Harbhajan's lack of success against Australia has not been a worrying factor for the Indian think tank. Asked whether he was happy with the way Harbhajan bowled last evening at Nagpur, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said "he indeed was, barring a couple of overs."

"Well I'm quite happy. I thought he bowled two bad overs, the first over he bowled during Power Play when he went for 12 or 13 odd runs and one more over in the middle.

"If you take those out his line and length were very good," Dhoni said after his swashbuckling knock of 124 that flattened the Aussies.

Backing the offie to the hilt, Dhoni further said that Harbhajan looked to be regaining his rhythm.

"He was getting purchase out of the wicket and quite consistent with his length, so I was quite happy as he was also getting into his rhythm," the Indian skipper said.

After the first ODI and on the eve of the second Dhoni said that Harbhajan was bowling well but still a bit short of what he was capable of and the team was confident he would bounce back soon.

"He's an experienced bowler. He's not bowling at his best but is still bowling well. Everyone goes through such a patch. The kind of individual he is, he always bounces back.

"He also loves changes. We have confidence in him. He's batting well but we would like to see him bowling better than what he's doing. But we are not too much worried about that," he said.

The Indian team would certainly benefit hugely if Harbhajan can regain the form, with which he had mesmerized Australian captain Ricky Ponting and retired wicket keeping great Adam Gilchrist in the past.

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