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The Rediff Special/Harish Kotian in Delhi
Play three spinners in first Test, says Rajesh Chauhan
November 21, 2007
India is a facing a problem of plenty. Three good spinners, but place for only two in the team for the opening Test against Pakistan, which commences on Thursday.
The decision to leave out either of them is pretty tough considering that both spinners have been in good form lately, as was witnessed in the one-dayers against Australia and Pakistan.
Former India off-spinner Rajesh Chauhan believes it would be unfair to drop either Harbhajan or Kartik, and the hosts should consider playing with three spinners.
"I don't know why can't three spinners play in a Test match in India. In my playing days, we had three spinners in a Test match that was me, [Anil] Kumble and [Venkatapathy] Raju. We played together and performed well too, so there is no reason why we can't do it again," Chauhan told rediff.com.
Chauhan, who played 21 Tests and 35 one-dayers between 1993 and 1998, is famously-known for his last over six off Saqlain Mushtaq which helped India win a tight one-day match in Karachi in 1997. Incidentally, India never lost any of the 21 Tests in which the off-spinner played.
Chauhan believes that spin bowling is an integral part of Indian cricket, though of late the focus is shifting to fast bowling.
"Our strength has always been spin, which we seem to have forgotten lately or trying to forget. But, lately, we had to draw back on that very strength of spin bowling to rescue us. Interestingly, in most of the Test series we have won in the last 50 years, whether at home or abroad, spinners have played a major role," he added.
Chauhan is currently working with the Indian Cricket League and his role is to spot young talent from around the country.
He showered rich praise on left-arm spinner Kartik and said he deserves to be a permanent fixture of both the ODI and Test teams.
"I feel he has wasted his five years considering the talent he has got. If he would have played for the last five years, he would have been the backbone of our bowling attack. But whatever happened, it was all because of his mistakes and there is nobody else to blame. But, still, he has great potential. If he continues delivering for India I think he will become a permanent member of this Indian team. I think he has the potential to play for another 10 years for India," the former India spinner added.
Chauhan, however, criticised Harbhajan and believes the offie needs to sharpen skills or risk being dropped.
"I think there are no other good off-spinners in India. If there had been some other good off-spinner, maybe, Harbhajan wouldn't have made a comeback.
"Right now I do not see all the required skills and variations in his bowling, which is required at the top level and I am scared for him; I hope that he improves pretty soon.
"This is because when you play three spinners in a match, one of them will always be in the shadow. Anil Kumble is the captain and he will definitely bowl a majority of the overs. And the other factor is that there are a lot of right-handers in the Pakistan team, which tilts the balance in Kartik's favour. So Harbhajan will not get a lot of overs to prove himself and that is why he needs to work hard. He is no doubt capable of bowling better and winning matches single-handedly, but I don't know why he is not doing it right now."
The 40-year-old is also delighted that his former team mate has been handed the Test team's captaincy.
"I think he deserves to be the captain, but the only thing is that he got the captaincy very late in his career. But even when he was not the captain, he used to lead the bowlers. He had that leadership quality in him throughout. And now he has got the opportunity to lead the team and I hope he does well," Chauhan said.
Chauhan feels India will emerge winners in the Test series too.
"Pakistan is in a rebuilding stage and all the youngsters are slowly trying to get used to international cricket. Their bowling attack is not that great too and it was not a surprise that our batsmen did so well against them in the ODIs. And playing in home conditions, you are always expected to win since you know the conditions. We should also be successful in the upcoming Test series too considering how well we played in the ODIs."
So what is his role in the newly-formed ICL?
"My role with the ICL is to search for young talent within the country. We have found quite a few talented players, who may not play in our inaugural Twenty20 tournament, but in future tournaments. Our first target is this tournament, after which our next target will be future tournaments for which we will need more players. We have prepared a list of players from all over the country, who will be gradually added to ICL."
He says the ICL is not competing with anyone but giving deserving youngsters a platform to showcase their talent.
"There are a lot of talented players in India. This is such a big country and so many youngsters play cricket everyday, so definitely there is a huge pool to choose from. For example, if you take a city like Mumbai, there will be at least 5000 kids ready and capable of playing at the top, but cannot do so because they don't get the right support to get to the next level. So that is where ICL comes in to help these youngsters and give them a platform to showcase their talent," Chauhan said.