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Asia Cup T20: India have treated Harbhajan Singh badly, says Saqlain Mushtaq

The Pakistani spin legend hailed Ashwin as a world class spinner, but also mentioned that India had treated Harbhajan Singh badly.

Harbhajan Singh Saqlain Mushtaq
Harbhajan Singh last played for India in October last year

Such has been India’s form and the balance of the side, that one of their most experienced spinners across formats, Harbhajan Singh, has been warming the bench since he was picked for the T20 side that played Australia last month.

The classic off-spinner, as well as one of the most efficient utilizers of the ‘doosra,’ has found support from one amongst his own bowling brethren, the former Pakistani off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, who has said that the Indian veteran has not been treated properly by Indian cricket.

While asserting that the incumbent Indian strike spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is a world-class bowler, he said, “I am afraid that Indian cricket board and team management's treatment to Harbhajan has not been great.”

Harbhajan has been put under pressure: Saqlain

“He was a world-class bowler and is still a world class bowler. The emergence of Ashwin doesn't mean that you drop Harbhajan or put him under tremendous pressure,” he told Press Trust of India (PTI).

The 39-year-old Pakistani veteran has taken 208 Test wickets and 288 ODI wickets and was one of the most feared spin bowlers of his era.

“Look from the time he got dropped (in 2011), he has made three comebacks which meant that when you needed him, you picked him and when the need was over, you dumped him.

“So the pressure that you have created on him, you have already negated his past achievements. But what logically should have been done is that when his graph was going down, one should have given him a short break and brought him back.

“He should have been the first choice spinner supported by Ashwin. Instead, you put self-doubts in him and now made him the third or fourth choice spinner in the side," Saqlain did not mince words while explaining,” said Saqlain without keeping in anything with himself.

“In my 10 years for Pakistan, I have seen legends being dropped due to form or injury and after they came back, in first 2 or 3 matches, their confidence looked to have been shaken. But after five or six matches, their rhythm came back.

“Let me be very clear, even if Bhajji has 100 percent potential, he will not be able to perform because you people have made him feel like a No 4.

“At the end, players are only human with the same kind of feelings and emotions. A good performance is emotion driven.

“If you are in a good space mentally, your graph will go up and vice versa,” Saqlain added.

Ashwin better than Nathan Lyon and Moeen Ali

On Ravichandran Ashwin, the Pakistani opined that the 29-year-old Indian off-spinner was one of the best in the world, and even hailed him as a better bowler than Australia’s Nathan Lyon and England’s Moeen Ali.

"Nathan Lyon and Moeen Ali still need to prove themselves but Ashwin is a world class bowler and is bowling superbly at the moment. He has good attitude and I wish him all the best.

“Ashwin has proved himself at Test level but the other two still need to do a bit more,” he said.

While praising the Tamil Nadu cricketer, the spin legend also defended Ashwin’s performances outside the sub-continent.

“Just like batsmen when they go out of the sub-continent, they face problems, similarly, spinners also face their share of problems. Ashwin has skills. He has troubled batsmen in the sub-continent and he is capable of doing that outside as well,” said Saqlain.

Emphasizing upon the difference of conditions between the subcontinent and places like Australia or England, Saqlain said, “In Australia, you will play with three pacers and a specialist spinner, in India it will be opposite.

“The surface, the condition, the ball (SG in India, dukes in England and kookaburra in Australia) -- everything changes. So if Ashwin gets five-for in India, he will perhaps get three in Australia.

“A captain's plan for spinners in Australia is completely different unless there is some grip in the pitch. Spinner is your fourth option and accordingly will bowl less number of overs,” he said signing off.

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