Former India cricketer Harbhajan Singh. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Harbhajan Singh is known for packing a punch while bowling his deliveries or giving an honest opinion, and the former Indian off-spinner rubbishes the talk of numerous variations in a bowler’s armoury and says there is no substitute for a good line and length.

“Cricket’s basics remain the same. Today we talk about doosra, carom ball and all those fancy terms, but the ball either goes in or goes out after pitching. It is the same with the pacers. It has been made such a big thing like the bowlers are having a rope attached to the ball and the ball comes back to them,” he ridiculed those talking about the numerous variations during an exclusive chat with Gulf News.

“Line and length are the most important aspect in bowling. If a batter plays from the crease, then he is comfortable. The bowlers have to ensure that they use their feet and come out, then you have won half the battle. That’s what the spinners should aim do,” said the veteran of 367 international matches.

32 wickets

Harbhajan had the best time of his career when he gained 32 wickets against Australia, including a hat-trick at Eden Gardens, when India, after following on, scored a 172-run win. The victory ended Australia’s 16-match unbeaten streak with Harbhajan finishing with a six-wicket haul in the second innings and a match haul of 13 wickets.

But Harbjahan feels that spinners are game changers in all formats, even more in the shorter formats.

“Shorter formats bring the spinners more in the game. There are more chances that you will go for runs, but if you are brave enough and intelligent enough and, if you have the skill, you can win many matches for your country like Rashid Khan or Yuzvendra Chahal,” he felt. “They are very successful because they play with batters’ mind and they know what is coming.”

However, finger spinners, especially the off-spinners have become an endangered species in limited-over cricket and even the examples quoted by Harbhajan are finger spinners. Finger spinners, mystery spinners and left-arm orthodox spinners are more preferred due to the fact that they take the ball away from the batters, especially with most of them right-handers across the world.

“It’s an art once you get right, then it’s not that easy for the batters to keep hitting. You have to vary the pace, the loop the spin and it takes time. I don’t think now people wanted to put that amount of time and effort,” he said, adding that spinners need to attack to get wickets. “Unless you pick wickets, it is impossible to bowl a dot ball. Once the new batters, then you bowl a dot ball as they take time to settle.”

Will and skill

The two key qualities that the spinners require to excel are will and skill, then one can conquer the world. And to gain that one has to put in a lot of hard work. Quoting his career, Harbhajan, one of the greatest off-spinners the country has produced, said he worked hard to achieve success in the Indian Premier League with an economy of 7.08 and 150 wickets during his 14-year stint.

“Grew up watching legends like Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar and I saw them work hard and becoming better and better by the day. That’s exactly what I did.

“I wanted to win the game for my country and the respective IPL team. I don’t want to be just a participant, but I wanted to be a winner for my team. So I worked hard. If you have the will and with it some skill and then the whole world is out there to be won. It comes down to how badly you wanted it,” he concluded.