March 24, 2019 / 6:39 AM / a month ago

Cricket: Give finger spinner a role at World Cup, says Harbhajan

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Harbhajan Singh dismissed a trio of top batsmen in the Indian Premier League’s opener on Saturday before underlining the importance of a finger spinner to India’s cause at the upcoming Cricket World Cup.

Harbhajan Singh bowls during a practice session ahead of their second test cricket match against Sri Lanka in Colombo, August 19, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

Playing for champions Chennai, Harbhajan sent back Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) skipper Virat Kohli, former South Africa batting mainstay AB de Villiers and England all-rounder Moeen Ali on a MA Chidambaram Stadium track that offered significant assistance to the slow bowlers.

Wrist spinners, once considered a luxury for their penchant to bleed runs in the chase for wickets, have taken the limited-overs formats by storm and banished their finger spin cousins to the fringes.

Five of the top 10 spots in the International Cricket Council’s rankings for one-day international bowlers are occupied by wrist spinners — Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, Imran Tahir of South Africa, Indian pair Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, and England’s Adil Rashid.

Harbhajan, who played 103 tests and 236 ODIs for India, said there is a perception that wrist spinners have more chance of success as they possess more variations in their armoury.

“I have played all my cricket as a finger spinner and never complained about it. I did okay, not bad, quite happy with whatever I have achieved,” said the 38-year-old, who has taken over 700 wickets in the three formats of international cricket.

“It’s come down to the people and their belief whether finger spinners could do the job or not. I feel finger spinners have a role to play provided you back them.

“Of course, spinners also need to back themselves to spin the ball rather than not spinning them. New generation they don’t look to spin the ball... As long as you are looking to spin the ball, you are there in the game.”

On Saturday, the former India off-spinner’s 3-20 spell at the start of the innings left RCB reeling and they were eventually bundled out for 70, leaving Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side to win the opening match of the 2019 IPL by seven wickets.

Tahir also picked up three wickets and India all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja took two while also taking the catches to dismiss India skipper Kohli and De Villiers.

The success of Chahal and Kuldeep rendered Jadeja and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin surplus to India’s limited-overs requirements but the former has battled back into contention for the May 30 to July 14 World Cup in England and Wales.

“Someone like Ravindra Jadeja, he’s always in the game,” Harbhajan said of his left-arm spin colleague.

“I don’t want to talk way too much about the World Cup but he could be a key member for Team India to win that.

“He’s a factor, he bowls, he bats and he’s a brilliant fielder. Finger spinners should be given the responsibility, they will deliver it.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Peter Rutherford

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