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Home > Cricket > India in the United Kingdom 2007 > Report

Harbhajan's exclusion baffles Saqlain

July 09, 2007 19:50 IST

Saqlain Mushtaq is convinced that Rahul Dravid's [Images] men will prove tough customers in the Test series against England [Images], but the former Pakistan off-spinner is baffled that India does not have Harbhajan Singh [Images] in its ranks.

Saqlain pointed to Harbhajan's impressive record and felt India cannot afford to leave out the match-winning off-spinner.

"How can your selectors drop a bowler of Harbhajan Singh's quality? He has taken wickets in a heap against the best sides. That is the hallmark of a great bowler," a surprised Saqlain said.

"It's only when you play quality sides and put in an impressive performance for your team under pressure that truly reflects how good you are," he added.

The former off-spinner, who was granted a British citizenship last week, felt cricketers are not treated well both in India and Pakistan.

"Unfortunately, both in Pakistan and India, we do not treat our players well. It just takes one bad series to lose the confidence of the selectors. That's not how you should treat quality players," Saqlain said.

Apart from Harbhajan, Saqlain heaped praise on Anil Kumble too, describing the leg spinner as a great bowler.

"Kumble has been bowling consistently well over the years. He commands a lot of respect from the batsmen."

Despite Harbhajan's absence, Saqlain predicted, India would make life difficult for their hosts in the forthcoming Test series.

"India has players like Sachin Tendulkar [Images], Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly [Images] and V V S Laxman [Images], all of whom have got class and experience. They've played together for a number of years now and, I believe, India can put up a strong challenge in the forthcoming Test series against England."

On the current Indian side, Saqlain acknowledged that Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman are in the evening of their respective careers but refused to buy the argument that the side would be handicapped once these players leave the scene.

"It's true that you can't replace these quality players overnight. But I have no doubts in my mind that there's no dearth of talent in India and Pakistan."

Saqlain, however, took a dig at the way Indian and Pakistani Boards function.

"The talent in these two countries is amazing, but there's a problem with the people running the game. There are not enough opportunities to nurse raw talent. The system doesn't support players from the grass root levels."

Saqlain also saw a lot of sense behind the decision by three senior Indian players -- Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly -- to skip the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup.

He reckoned that Twenty20 cricket is a young man's game that needs players to be supremely fit and capable of playing the big shots.

"Twenty20 is the cricketing version of Formula One. It requires a lot of energy which is why it's basically a young man's game."

Interestingly, Saqlain has been one of the star performers for Sussex, which is topping the Twenty20 table in England.

"I have been playing some Twenty20 Cricket for Sussex recently and I know I struggle to remain on my feet sometimes after the game."

  • India in the United Kingdom 2007

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