Green tops in Ranji Trophy to blame for lack of quality spinners: Harbhajan Singh
Discarded Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has said that the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI’s) measure to produce green wickets in domestic cricket that help the seam bowlers has given “fake confidence” to them and reduced the impact of spinners like him on the game to a great extent.
"I don't have an issue with leaving grass on the wicket. But we shouldn't leave so much grass where even a 120-kph bowler appears like Malcolm Marshall. It is okay if someone bowling 120 looks like 125, but he shouldn't appear unplayable.
“Our wickets make such bowlers look unplayable. Some of these bowlers end up picking 50 wickets in a season. So you can't ignore them. When such a bowler is picked for international cricket, he gets exposed while bowling on a slightly drier surface. The ball doesn't reach the batsman,” the 34-year-old said, on the sidelines of his side’s Ranji Trophy encounter against Maharashtra.
Spinners should come into play in the latter stages: Harbhajan
He added that wickets should be prepared in such a way that they test a batsman’s technique against seam bowling on the first day, and as the game wears on, they should offer assistance to spinners as well.
"I feel the wicket should offer help to pacers on the first morning but it shouldn't get bowlers into a mindset that 'waah, toss jeet gaye, ab toh mera hi din hai [wow, we have won the toss. Now it is my day]’. There should be help for bowlers but if a batsman applies himself he should also be able to score big. And on the fourth-fifth days, spinners should come into play.
"Play on a sporting wicket but don't play on a wicket where ordinary bowlers are made to look terrorizing. It doesn't help. We are not taking the game anywhere. You are giving fake confidence to bowlers. Anybody can bowl on such wickets. It is like on a rank turner, anybody can take wickets. Similarly, any seamer who can swing the ball a bit and bowls a good line and length will do well on such tops. But to make it challenging, you have to make the conditions change just like it happens in Test cricket," he added.
Ever since India were blanked 4-0 in England and Australia in 2011, the BCCI have ensured that more grass is left on the pitches. Harbhajan feels that this decision has resulted in spinners not getting any kind of help from the tracks.
"It is very difficult to produce spinners if you are playing Ranji Trophy on green tops like this (Pune) wicket. You cannot see any cracks, any foot marks on this wicket. We won the toss and bowled them out for 210. Even in the first session [on the second and third days], the ball kept moving because there is so much of moisture below the wicket. It will remain green on all four days.
"Where will you get spinners to come into play on such tracks? The moment a spinner comes on to bowl, batsman feels it is an opportunity to make runs. There is no challenge. There is no spin, no bounce. There should be something for spinners. There should be something to play for each of the eleven guys in a team. That is missing," he added.
Citing Sachin Tendulkar’s example of how he countered the effect of playing Shane Warne, the Punjab captain asked how it will ever be possible for spinners to learn to bowl into the rough if they aren’t any present on the wicket.
"Where are the spinners? I remember Sachin (Tendulkar) practising for Shane Warne's deliveries that were pitched in the rough. Now when the rough isn't created at all, where will a spinner learn the art of bowling into the rough? It is good to make green tops but when the same players progress to Test cricket, they have to play on surfaces that are completely different. It does affect," he said.
He also suggested bringing in a points system, depending upon the number of runs scored and the number of wickets taken in the match.
"Perhaps we can introduce bonus points based on runs scored and wickets taken. Like in England. For instance, if you score 300, you get one, two for 350 and three for 400. Similarly while bowling, if you take six wickets, you get one point and three for nine. It will make the game more competitive," he said.
Optimistic of India return: Harbhajan
The former Mumbai Indians captain, who has taken 413 wickets in 101 Test matches for India, said that he was still optimistic of returning to the Indian team soon.
"I have commitments towards Punjab. I am playing because I love playing cricket. I have never thought of playing Ranji Trophy to keep myself in shape for IPL. It is a wrong perception that either me or any of the seniors are playing Ranji Trophy because they want to play IPL. There is a reason for me to play Ranji Trophy: I want to make a comeback into the Indian side. For that, I will have to do well in all domestic tournaments, including the Ranji Trophy," he said.