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Following the debacle of the first Test, much knee-jerk analysis has held that Harbhajan Singh in the playing XI would have made the difference.

The question is moot -- one of those hypotheticals for which there really is no one correct answer.

Click for an interactive fielding postion.
It is, however, obvious that the offie will be pressed into service for the second Test, starting Thursday. And against the backdrop of the first Test defeat, more than ordinary expectations will be placed on him.

This does, however, bring up a point -- does tossing the ball to an off-spinner ensure wickets and a win? Or is it necessary to understand an off-spinner's art, and to provide the right field?

Harbhajan's armoury consists of flight, loop, turn and bounce. When he can use all these weapons, the 'doosra', the one going the other way, becomes a shock weapon.

In order to facilitate that, however, the field placement needs to be accurate. EAS Prasanna, for instance, is on record about how much he owed to the placements of the Nawab of Pataudi and Ajit Wadekar.

So what is the ideal placement for an off-spinner?

Given the attacking nature of that type of bowler, the ideal field shuts down the easy scoring options -- the pushed single on either side, the sweep, etc. And forces the batsman to either play out maidens, or take risks.

If a batsman can consistently take singles off an offie, he is then reduced to bowling flat and fast -- hence, the importance of shutting down those options.

In this connection, here is a suggested field, as an off-spinner would set it. Offered to you as a theoretical exercise -- and also, as a point of comparison for when 'Bajji' comes on to bowl, Thursday.

Finally, one more page from the Prasanna book: Off-spinners tend to buy their wickets. Indian skippers in recent times have tended to push the field back the first time a four is hit off an offie.

What needs to be understood is that this is precisely what the batsman wants -- once the field is scattered (even if you keep just the one slip in place) he can then score runs at will without risk.

One major reason why a Prasanna, or a Venkat, was successful was a close cordon manned by the likes of Eknath Solkar, Wadekar, Venkat himself, Abid Ali, manning the leg slip, silly point, slip, short square close cordon

It is highly unlikely that Prasanna would have been the force he was if Solkar had fielded in the covers. Or at midwicket.

  • An ideal field setting for Harbhajan Singh

  • How would you attack Harbhajan Singh with this field placement?


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