People are going overboard while criticising Rohit's captaincy: Harbhajan Singh

09:33 AM Jul 11, 2023 | PTI |

Rohit Sharma needs all the support from the Indian cricket establishment in the coming times as people are going “overboard” with their criticism of his captaincy, feels spin great Harbhajan Singh.


In recent weeks, the Indian captain has received a lot of flak from fans and former cricketers, including the legendary Sunil Gavaskar, who felt that his leadership in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against Australia was not up to the mark.

However, Harbhajan, who has seen a lot of Rohit in the Indian as well as the Mumbai Indians dressing room, reminded everyone about the kind of respect he commands from his peers.

“I find that people are going a bit overboard… the way Rohit has been criticised. Cricket is a team sport and one individual cannot take you from one place to other,” Harbhajan told PTI in an interview ahead of India’s next Test assignment against the West Indies.

“Team India didn’t do well in WTC final, and yes, you talk about that performance and move on from there. But it is unfair to criticise Rohit alone, that he is not scoring runs, putting on weight, not captaining well. I think he is a brilliant leader,” the veteran of 103 Tests said.


For Harbhajan, the need of the hour is to show faith in Rohit’s leadership ability.

“I have played with him (Rohit) and watched him closely. He commands a lot of respect not only in MI dressing room but also in the Indian dressing room. So I think it’s unfair to judge him on basis of recent results.

“He will come good and we need to show faith in him and we need to support him rather than pinpointing that you are not doing this or that.”

History has been witness to every influential Indian captain getting implicit backing from the BCCI and its most powerful administrator. For Sourav Ganguly, Jagmohan Dalmiya’s support was very vital, while Mahendra Singh Dhoni always enjoyed firm backing from another BCCI strongman, N Srinivasan, throughout his captaincy tenure.

When Virat Kohli enjoyed his best days on the hot seat, he had former CAG and Committee of Administrator (CoA) head, Vinod Rai, endorsing all his decisions.

Harbhajan hoped that Rohit is getting the kind of backing from the BCCI like his predecessors got.

“If you have the support from BCCI, you can work freely. Not just MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli, if you go back a little further, a lot of captains have got support from BCCI presidents of that time.

“Rohit must be getting support from BCCI. I don’t know how much support he must be getting (though). Having that kind of support will help him take right kind of decision at the right time.

“He will get that liberty if he has that support. Support must be there for Rohit like BCCI has given it to all its captains,” the ‘Turbanator’ said.

Pujara did ‘dirty work’ for team and deserves way more respect

Cheteshwar Pujara, a doyen at No. 3 in India’s batting order, has been dropped and Harbhajan feels that Indian cricket hasn’t exactly learned to value his contribution.

“I have a lot of respect for Chesteshwar Pujara for what he has achieved. He has been an unsung hero of Indian team for many years now. He has been one of those pillars of strength for India, doing the dirty work of hanging in there, making sure other batters got their comfort,” Harbhajan was blunt as ever in his assessment.

Harbhajan has expressed his massive displeasure with the “lack of respect” for the Saurashtra man and the fact that the yardstick to judge performances hasn’t been same for every senior player.

“I believe he needs to be given a bit more respect than what he has been given and the way he was chucked out of the team was a surprise for me. Because he isn’t the only one not scoring runs. There are others as well who play in that same team who are scoring runs at same average,” Harbhajan said.

He didn’t name any other player, but it could be a thinly-veiled reference to Virat Kohli’s sub-30 average during the same period, the time when Pujara struggled for big scores and paid the price recently.

“I think rule should be same for everyone not different for different people. Look, if you want to drop a senior guy like him, talk to him and make him understand ‘look this what we are looking to do’.

“Tell him what’s the way forward, make him understand. All he needs is a bit more respect.”

Harbhajan is also irritated with Pujara’s strike-rate and intent being questioned time and again, without people understanding that a Test team requires traditional players, who bring in balance.

“In case of Pujara, we keep hearing about his strike-rate of scoring runs in Tests but because of that strike-rate, the wickets remain intact and that’s a huge contribution.

“So you have to see which guy is contributing what. You need to see how much the team needs him. In my opinion, the team still needs him.

“When you go abroad (SENA countries), you need one such batter as you can’t have everyone playing strokes all the time. You need someone who plays normal Test cricket, just like Chesteshwar Pujara.”

Harbhajan was all praise for Ajinkya Rahane for the manner in which he made a comeback to the Test arena, with knocks of 89 and 46 against Australia in the WTC final at the Oval.

“The way he made a comeback, he really looked good in that WTC finale. Now he is the vice-captain again.

“You need to show faith in these players so that they can do well again. A good player is a good player. Doesn’t matter if you are going forward or backwards (with his selection).”

Has anyone tried telling Sarfaraz why is he not being picked?

Harbhajan understands that the current crop of players will get a long rope before a domestic performer like Sarfaraz Khan gets a chance, but Harbhajan wants that the young Mumbaikar is told about the areas that he has to work on, with an assurance that he is there in the mix.

“Sarfaraz will get his opportunity as he has scored heavily in domestic cricket. I want to know if anyone has made an effort to go and talk to him, may be from BCCI or state associations?,” he asked.

“He is scoring runs, so you need to go and talk to him. Try and make him the player you want him to be. You have to keep him around the group and keep him motivated that he will be selected,” he elaborated.

On spin bowling options after Ashwin and Jadeja

The Indian team has been served admirably in home Tests by Ravichandran Ashwin (474 wickets) and Ravindra Jadeja (268 wickets). However, Ashwin is pushing 37 and Jadeja is nearing 35, and the team will need to explore other options in the near future.

Asked about the spin bowling reserves after the celebrated duo decides to make a move on in two-three years’ time, Harbhajan said the decision-makers in and around the Indian team should encourage a lot of domestic spinners and make them understand the importance and incentives of playing Test cricket.

“I think it is something to do with domestic cricket. You talk about Jayant, whatever little Test cricket he played, he has bowled well and is very good with the bat and you have to show faith in them.

“I want to see Axar Patel more and more as he is the one going forward. He is going to replace Jadeja. But Axar is also not too young compared to Jadeja.”

Kuldeep Yadav, who got five wickets on Test debut, remains a mystery for Harbhajan.

“Kuldeep was another spinner, when he took those five wickets in Australia, we heard that he will be the guy who will be playing abroad (in SENA) for India, but, after that, he never played abroad.

“I dont know what happened after that. Maybe he took five wickets and he paid the price for taking those wickets,” the spin great said, the sarcasm in his tone quite evident.

He also felt that someone of Yuzvendra Chahal’s calibre needs to be encouraged more to play Ranji Trophy and stake a claim for a Test spot.

“I am not saying we don’t have spinners but, somehow, we need to make them want to play Test cricket. Like Yuzvendra Chahal, who is a top spinner and plays in T20 formats, but then, I get surprised that he doesn’t feature in Asia Cup or World Cup.

“You have to make those spinners believe that you are good enough to play Test cricket. You have to push them to play Ranji Trophy so that they learn the art of bowling longer spells.”


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