First man to score two consecutive test centuries. That is a palpable feat. And when you know that the feat has been achieved by a cricketer, who is primarily known as a bowler, the accomplishment seems all the more praiseworthy.
But while the praises are definitely coming from all directions for Harbhajan Singh the man of the moment, cricket pundits are also getting a little confused over which slot to put him into, now that he has proven his skills as a batsman too.
Traditionally speaking, Harbhajan Singh is not just good but an outstanding spinner and time and again he has proved his worth in the Indian cricket team, despite the controversies trailing behind him all the time. With 369 test wickets and 242 ODI scalps, his proficiency as a world class spinner is unquestionable. But is he that good a batsman too? That is where the conventional thinkers raise their doubts before placing the crown of an all-rounder on his head.
An all-rounder like the great Kapil Dev, Gary Sobers and Jacques Kallis must be equally outstanding in batting, bowling and fielding. Jacques Kallis with 11,126 runs and 266 wickets definitely makes the cut but with Harbhajan Singh’s 1,785 runs and 369 wickets, the bowler in him surely shines more than the batsman. He is not an outstanding fielder either.
But what if we break the conventional all-rounder definitions and look at statistics in a different light?
Harbhajan Singh takes his batting quite seriously. There are innumerable games in which his quick 20s and 30s have changed the end of the match and turned around the game in India’s favor. Batting at no. 8 or 9 you are not even expected to know the proper way of holding the bat, but in all those dire situations, when one run can change the face of the game, Harbhajan has made a positive contribution. From that point of view, it is not the average runs scored that is important but if the runs have been scored to win matches and turn the table on the opponent.
His recent test centuries also came just in time to save the face of India against New Zealand. Therefore to not recognize his overall contributions as a dependable bowler and a batsman too would be unfair.
The game of cricket has changed a lot from its inception and is changing all the time. People now want fast actions and fast results. Even tests are being played like one-dayers and therefore the cricketers need to keep re-inventing themselves and their capabilities to become match-winners. In all those aspects, Harbhajan is proving that he can be a bowler and a batsman and therefore he can be called an all-rounder.
If the team does raise his status in the batting chart and lets him play at no. 4 or 5, he may actually score more and make the conventional thinkers happy too with his all-round performance with the bat as well as the ball. But he may also succumb to the pressure of such a huge title.
It is therefore best to keep the titles aside and call Harbhajan an outstanding cricketer. A man who is currently doing the right things at the right time for the team whether it is with the ball or the bat. Ultimately it is the wins we count and he is a match winner.