Former India spinner Harbhajan Singh believes Rohit Sharma should play at #6 in the batting order over Hardik Pandya in the Test side against South Africa.
The 37-year-old was weighing in on the team selection for the upcoming series against the Proteas, and feels Rohit’s ability to play the short ball will be crucial next month.
“Rohit is a fabulous player. Someone who plays the pull shot well and also plays the cut shot well. Rohit is my pick at No 6. He can ride the bounce and play his strokes. Hardik is a talented boy but Rohit for me is a complete batsman,” he said to PTI.
Harbhajan also feels Ravichandran Ashwin should undoubtedly be the first choice spinner if Virat Kohli was to go with a lone spinner in the playing XI.
“If Ashwin is still not an automatic pick after 300 wickets then when?” questioned Harbhajan. “The South African pitches will test patience of spinners as there won’t be much purchase like the sub-continent tracks where the ball will turn and jump from Day 1. That’s where skill comes into play as one has got to be patient.”
Given the conditions in South Africa, India will be tempted to play an extra seamer ahead of one of the spinners. Both Jadeja and Ashwin have been exceptional over the last 18 months, but South Africa demands a seamer-friendly approach.
The off-spinner also feels South African pacer Dale Steyn might not be a big threat in the series post his injury. The Proteas spearhead was out of competitive cricket for a year after suffering a shoulder dislocation during a Test match against Australia last year.
“Dale Steyn is unarguably the best fast bowler of the last 10 years but coming back into international cricket is not easy. A Test match against Zimbabwe will not exactly be an indicator of what he can do against India,” said Harbhajan.
“Look at the Indian batting line up. We have so much quality. Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma. This is perhaps among the best line-up in world cricket. For both Steyn and Morkel, it will be a challenge to stop this line-up especially when they themselves will need to get into the groove.”
Speaking about India cancelling the practice game prior to the first Test, Harbhajan said, “It is a very team-specific decision. The team management must have put some serious thought while taking such a decision. Obviously if they don’t have a practice game, possibly, the net bowlers who are going, will provide them with match simulation.”
The seasoned off-spinner believes that India has the side to beat South Africa at home. “It’s a confident team and it’s always good to win matches before any overseas tour. Any team that travels overseas loves to believe that it is going there to win the series. The Indian team is no different. We have a good batting line-up and a quality pace attack,” he signed off.