Friday, January 29, 2010


Right now, Greame Swann is ranked 5th and Harbhajan Singh is ranked 8th in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings in Test Cricket. Fourteen months back, when Swann made his debut against India at Chennai (days after the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai), Bhajji had already played 72 Tests and taken 306 wickets for India. He had also scored a healthy 1334 runs as a handy lower order batsman.

Swann grabbed an in-form Gautam Gambhir and an out-of-form Rahul Dravid as his first 2 wickets in his very first over in Test cricket. Since that Chennai Test, Swann has taken 69 wickets in 16 Tests as against Bhajji's 39 in 9 Tests. Both have taken 4.3 wickets per Test, but Bhajji played 6 out of his 9 Tests in the sub-continent whereas Swann has played only 2 Tests in the sub-continent. Swann's figures don't tell the entire story. He has not only closed the door on Monty Panesar by becoming the first choice spinner, but also become a certainty in the first eleven, even if the pitch is sure to be unresponsive. That is unheard of in the recent history of English spinners. To add to all this, Swann (like Harbhajan) is also a very handy batsman. Considering how much England rely on their lower order (sometimes last wicket pairs also), he has a bright future ahead of him.

Despite, averaging same number of wickets per Test, why is Swann's success looked at with greater respect than that of Harbhajan? The reason is very simple: Swann is making the most of the abilities he possesses. He does not possess the variety of Harbhajan Singh, but he makes up for it with his courage. His courage to flight the ball, his unruffled attitude when batsmen take him on and his consistent lengths have helped him garner his success.

Swann, alongwith Nathan Hauritz from Australia, has reignited the dying flames of the ART of off spin bowling. Whereas Harbhajan has lost his sense of art, and has continued to bowl his DARTS. Harbhajan's inexplicable tendencies of firing the ball into the pads and bowling defensive lengths despite attacking field settings have hampered his wicket taking abilities in the recent past. I know many people who would be happy to see him dropped against South Africa. Zaheer and Nehra have become transformed bowlers after their comebacks. Is it time that Harbhajan Singh is put through the same exile?

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