Don't write off Ricky Ponting: Harbhajan
Embattled Ricky Ponting has received support from an unexpected quarter in the form of Harbhajan Singh who said it is a big mistake to write off the former Aussie skipper.
The out-of-favour Indian off-spinner, who had plenty of fiery exchanges with Ponting over the years, especially after the "Monkeygate" scandal in the 2008 Sydney Test, surprisingly put his weight behind the Australian and asked him to defy his
growing band of critics.
"I do not think Ponting is finished and I think people are making a big mistake by writing him off," he said.
"Two years ago, people were saying the same things about Rahul Dravid (who averages 60 from 11 Tests this year) as what they are saying about Ponting now. Look what Dravid has done, he is a great player who has found his greatness again. I am sure Ponting will do the same," Harbhajan, who has dismissed Ponting more number of times than anyone else, added.
'Ponting is one innings away from finding his top form'
The 31-year-old spinner also said that cricketers of Ponting's stature should be given due respect.
"Guys like Ponting, Dravid and (Sachin) Tendulkar know what they are doing and people should stop questioning them. They should respect them for what they have done for the game and they should respect them if they think they can bat on and
contribute to cricket.
"The fans in Australia should not put pressure on Ponting, they should just accept he has been given a chance to keep playing and they should get right behind him and support him. Ponting is only one innings away from finding his top form," insisted the bowler.
'I am sure India will do very well'
Harbhajan, who has been left out of the touring Indian Test squad, predicted that India would dominate in the four-Test series against Australia, starting on December 26.
"This Australian side is a lot weaker than sides of the past. There is no Adam Gilchrist or Shane Warne or Glenn McGrath. India have definitely got a very good chance to beat them on their home soil.
"I don't want to predict a scoreline but I am sure India will do very well," he said.
'Lyon will face a big challenge against India'
Australia's new spin talent Nathan Lyon could develop into a good bowler but the off-spinner will face a tough challenge during the four-Test series against India, felt Harbhajan.
"I've watched a bit of Lyon on television and I think he has got a bit about him, he looks like he could develop into a good spinner for Australia," said Harbhajan.
"But I'm not sure he knows what a big challenge is around the corner for him. There are few better players of spin than batsmen like Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag. Lyon will have his hands full bowling to those guys.
"Sehwag is a guy who likes to play his shots and it will be a big learning series for the new Australian spinner. It will be quite an experience for him," the off-spinner added.
'I think India has got a very strong batting side'
Lyon is the 12th Australian Test spinner since Shane Warne retired but the former Adelaide Oval groundsman has taken just seven Tests to show that he may be the answer to Australia's spin woes.
The unassuming 24-year-old has already taken 22 Test wickets at an impressive average of 24.59 and has showed he is not afraid of flighting the ball and using loop and drift to deceive batsmen.
However, Harbhajan says India's batsmen are a totally different kettle of fish to the New Zealand batsmen who have lost their way against Lyon in the two Tests this summer.
"I think India has got a very strong batting side and it will be a big battle for the spinner (Lyon) and all the rest of the Australian bowlers," Harbhajan said.
'An injury has been affecting my bowling'
While Lyon appears to be blossoming, Harbhajan's 406-wicket Test career has been struck by a combination of poor form and a mysterious shin injury.
The 31-year-old 'Turbanator' was left out of the squad and is not likely to appear in the following one-day series as he will not be able to bowl until mid January at the earliest. It is possible that the controversial spinner -- at the centre of the infamous "Monkeygate" controversy in 2008 -- may never play in Australia again.
"My shin bone is extremely sore and it is very sensitive even just to touch it. The medical people have told me that if I do any more bowling at the moment I will do more damage and I may end up fracturing the bone," Harbhajan said.
"I have to have rest and there is a match I will try to play on January 25 (in Indian domestic cricket). The main thing is that I try to get strong again before I start bowling."
"It is an injury that has been bothering me for quite a while and has been affecting my bowling in matches," he added.