When R Ashwin became the fastest Indian to reach 200 Test wickets, he was accused by his fellow offie Harbhajan Singh for getting favours from pitch curators and said that that was the reason why the Tamil Nadu bowler picked up so many wickets. Harbhajan went on to say that he never got wickets that favoured the spinners when he was playing for India.
Harbhajan continued his rant on Twitter at the start of day 1 of the third Test when he said the wicket provided for the Indore Test looked like a 2-day old pitch even before the first ball was bowled and went on to predict that the Test match won’t get past 3 and a half days.
On the morning of the day 1 of the third Test, Harbhajan tweeted, “Already looks like 2 days old pitch before the 1st bowl is bowled..my predictions match won't go more then (than) 3 and half days..“
The moment his prediction went horribly wrong, the fans started to question Harbhajan, but the ‘ Turbanator’ remained defiant and claimed that the wicket was tailor made for the spinners.
When Harbhajan was questioned about the wickets he bowled on few occasions, the out of favour Indian spinner clarified by saying he got rank turners on just two out of his 103 Tests. He also added that the wickets tally for him and Anil Kumble would have been more if they were given the pitches that are being provided to the team in the last four years.
Critics have argued that there is nothing wrong in preparing turning wickets for Test matches in India as the home team is allowed to prepare the kind of pitches that suit their team. A case in point being England and South Africa, who welcome their tourists with green tops and tracks that facilitate seam movement and bounce.
The ball spinning on Indian wickets is not something new as the wickets in sub-continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) tend to assist the spinners in the past. This is one of the reasons why these countries produce a lot of quality spinners when compared to the other teams.
As for Harbhajan Singh’s claims, one can only view this as a case of “sour grapes” as the former India off-spinner sent out the tweets at a time when Ashwin created history. The saying goes ‘numbers don’t lie’ and if we compare the numbers of both Ashwin and Harbhajan, the former comes out on top.
In 190 innings, Harbhajan Singh has 417 wickets at an average of 32.46 while Ashwin has 220 wickets in just 72 innings at an average of 24.29. Ashwin has a long way to go as Harbhajan is someone who has played over 100 Tests and comparing a bowler with 103 Tests and another with just 39 Tests might be unfair on the former. But, Harbhajan in his first 39 Tests picked up 48 wickets less than Ashwin. Here is the proof:
At home, Harbhajan has taken a wicket every 64 balls while Ashwin takes nearly 20 balls less to do so. Even in matches away from home, Ashwin has a better record as he has taken a wicket every 62 balls when compared to Harbhajan’s average of a wicket every 76 balls.
These numbers indicate that Ashwin has done well both at home and when playing away from home. Therefore, Harbhajan accusing Ashwin of getting wickets owing to pitches favouring the spinners holds little statistical relevance. While Harbhajan Singh is entitled to his views, the aforementioned statistics narrate a different story.