x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

The sword drops on Harbhajan

Harbhajan Singh has paid the price for India's dismal tour England and he can count himself a little unlucky.

There would be no better time to be a fly on the wall in the Harbhajan Singh household. After a tour of England in which every batsman other than Rahul Dravid failed to come to grips with England's seam attack, the off-spinner has become the fall guy.

Harbhajan played just two of the four Tests before a abdominal injury ended his tour, and unflattering figures of two for 287 have been used as exhibit A to justify him being sidelined.

Graeme Swann, the world's best slow bowler according to the ICC rankings, took two for 211 in those two games. In the past 12 months, Harbhajan has taken 38 wickets in 11 matches, to Swann's 40 from 12 (at 35.22), at an average not significantly worse (37.63).

Before England, Harbhajan took 11 wickets at 25 in the West Indies and bowled beautifully, taking 13 wickets, as India had the better of the final two Tests in South Africa.

But there is no denying Harbhajan, the highest wicket-taker in the game now (406 in Tests, 259 in one-day internationals), has not been able to inspire the Indian bowling by example.

The selection of Ravichandran Ashwin, an unorthodox off-spinner, is as much about exploring options as about putting Harbhajan on guard. Pragyan Ojha is expected to be the steady foil.

Rahul Sharma, a leg-spinner, is the wild-card pick. His 10 first-class outings for Punjab have produced just 18 wickets. But while he takes his place in the nets alongside Tendulkar and Sehwag, Harbhajan must journey in the other direction to pick up the pieces.