EXCLUSIVE | ‘I’ve Full Faith in All Youngsters. They’ve it in Them to Take The Team Forward’ – Harbhajan Singh

In the first two India vs England Tests in Hyderabad and Vizag, ‘approach’ was the difference between the two teams. In the first, England’s fearless and brave temperament led them to a 28-run win over India while in the second, it took India a double ton from Yashasvi Jaiswal, a 100 from Shubman Gill and a magical Jasprit Bumrah spell to take India to victory.

A positive approach led India to have an upper hand in a contest where England could have easily managed to bounce back a couple of times. However, a new day awaits in Rajkot and perhaps a 10-day rest must have given both the teams enough time to strategise well and regain their energy tanks for the ongoing third Test.

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Former India cricketer Harbhajan Singh reflected on India’s approach and rested confidence in youngsters to win the third Test for India. In an exclusive conversation with Cricketnext, he said, “Team India had a very positive approach in the second Test match. The way they scored runs and at what run rate was very important. In order to win a Test match, running a scoreboard is very important. Kudos to (Yashasvi) Jaiswal, he played brilliantly, so happy for him. The more I see him, I feel wow! What a player he is! For him and Shubman Gill, the second Test was quite good.”

“Jasprit Bumrah is a Champion, he doesn’t care about the pitch. He comes, takes wickets and anyway a great player is the one who doesn’t care about pitches and Jasprit Bumrah is the one,” he added.

In Tests in India pitch becomes quite a topic before every match and at Rajkot and while India have prepared turning tracks in the last three years at home aiming to cash in on the advantage and take maximum points in the WTC cycle, it is a ploy that has backfired as well, with India batters struggling to score runs on pitches that they have grown up playing.

The spinning great who has 417 Test wickets to his belt talked about the pitch and mentioned how good pitches are important for Indian conditions.

“I felt that the second Test match’s pitch wasn’t very turning pitch. The youngsters got a chance to score runs because it gets very difficult to score runs on a turner. I would like to see the (Rajkot) pitch in the same way – a good pitch where India must win after playing good cricket,” said Harbhajan.

So far in the series, England spinners (33) have more wickets than Indian spinners (23) and better average (34 vs 38). Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir’s discipline with the ball masked their lack of experience, but Harbhajan feels one cannot count out the experience and proficiency of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

The 43-year-old stated that though England spinners have outperformed their Indian counterparts statistically, but the quality of Indian spinners is far better than the opponents. “When we have spinn-friendly conditions then you’ll see all the spinners in the game whether it is an Indian spinner or a visiting one. If conditions won’t favour them (England spinners) then Indian spinners are far better than the opponents. I feel one should not make conditions so favourable that even visiting nations have a lot to show. They have just started to play so if favourable conditions are there, then anybody can come into the game, I believe the stats are showing such numbers because the pitch is favouring the England spinners as they were bowling in the fourth innings (in the second Test).”

The third Test has a lot of milestones awaiting – Ben Stokes is playing his 100th Test match, James Anderson is just five short of 700 Test wickets and, but all eyes would be on Ashwin, who is just one wicket adrift of 500 Test wickets.

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With a big smile on his face and from an incredible spinner to another, Harbhajan congratulated Ashwin in advance for the big milestone and stated that Ashwin has, is and will always make India proud.

“It’s a great kind of a milestone. 500 is a big number and I wish him all the luck. I hope he continues to rock and do well. It is a very big thing and congratulations to him in advance. Today, tomorrow, whenever that happens, it’ll be a very proud moment for India,” said Harbhajan.

The Rajkot Test is literally going to be the big test for India as the team will be without the services of Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and a crucial no. 4 which was earlier occupied by Shreyas Iyer. Sarfaraz Khan and Dhruv Jurel have earned the Test cap and when asked whether the youngsters can pull off a victory against the aggressive style of England cricket, Harbhajan quickly asserted, “Most definitely.”

Harbhajan, who is currently in commentary shoes with ILT20 in UAE said that Kohli and other players’ absence can’t be ignored but cricket never stops for anyone and he has full faith in youngsters to pull off a victory.

“I think cricket will never stop for anyone, it never has. So, I think youngsters like Jaiswal, Shubman and even Sarfaraz will play, so India have a lot of runs and cricket won’t stop for anyone.

Yes, you’ll always miss the senior players but when those players aren’t available then it’s the right opportunity for them (youngsters) to showcase their talent and win something very important for India. This will boost their confidence and I have full faith in all the youngsters. They have it in them to take the team forward,” he quoted.

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