Harbhajan also says young opener Shubman Gill must get back to his groove after a cheap run against England and in the IPL at home since a good run is paramount in seam and swing friendly conditions in England.
Asked about his preferred team combination for the final, Harbhajan gave his reason why he feels Siraj can pip Ishant for a place in the final XI. “If I was the captain, I would go with three pure fast bowlers. In that case, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami pick themselves. In this final, I would like to go with Mohammed Siraj ahead of Ishant Sharma,” Harbhajan told PTI on Thursday.
“Ishant is a brilliant bowler but for this game, my choice is Siraj, who has shown remarkable improvement in the last two years.”
For Harbhajan, a player’s current form should always be taken into account and that’s where Siraj, whose five-wicket haul in Brisbane was crucial in India’s series win, should get a look-in.
“You have to look at the present scenario. Siraj’s form, pace and confidence makes him a better choice for this final match. The kind of form he is in the last six months, he looks like a bowler who is hungry for his chances. Ishant has gone through some injuries of late but has been a great servant of Indian cricket no doubt,” the off-spinner said.
“If you leave some grass on the surface, Siraj with his pace will be lethal. Trust me, New Zealand batters won’t find him easy as he not only hits the deck but also gets to move the ball off the pitch at brisk pace. He can create awkward angles for batsmen,” India’s third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket observed.
What has impressed Harbhajan most in this year’s IPL where Siraj troubled Andre Russell during a Kolkata Knight Riders versus Royal Challengers Bangalore game.
“I saw him during 2019 when Russell blasted him to all corners of the ground. This year I saw him bowl some really accurate yorkers and consistently hitting the right spot ball after ball. The pace has also increased.
“Russell was beaten for pace during a couple of deliveries. It’s the confidence that he gained by playing for India. He would look into batsmen’s eyes and batters are on back-foot.”
On Gill, Harbhajan believes that the talented Punjab lad would have certainly worked on his flaws and hoped he would come out all guns blazing during the next three months in England.
“A good first innings score of 375 to 400 will set up the match nicely for Indian pace attack. But for that Gill needs to bat well. Rohit has had enormous white ball success in England during the World Cup and he is an experienced hand.
“You don’t want a situation where Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara are every time walking in at 15 for 2. You should also give a start which allows them to build and consolidate.”
The cold conditions in Southampton might not be too conducive for spinners with the pitch expected to remain solid throughout the course but Harbhajan feels that two spinners in five-man attack is the way forward if Hardik Pandya is not there.
“You play two spinners when the climate is on the hotter side. The cracks will appear and they will both be effective. If it remains on the cooler side, the pitch which comprises mainly of black soil won’t break.
“They can take a final call factoring in the weather just before the game and also taking the five-day forecast into the account. I don’t see a case for four pacers with no Hardik Pandya in the set-up. You can only play four pacers if the pitch can’t be distinguished from the outfield,” he explained.
The veteran of 103 Tests believes that Ravindra Jadeja’s batting skills and spin ability makes him an automatic choice for number seven. “If you look at Jaddu’s batting performances in England, it’s as good as anyone. He has multiple half centuries and he is a top class bowling operator. The moment you don’t have Hardik to lend balance, Jaddu automatically fits,” he said.
Also the fact that two spinners will give Kohli a chance to rotate the fast bowlers for effective short bursts. “But yes, how much they will come into play if it’s cold remains a question as there might not be much help from the surface. Two spinners always gives you a chance to rotate your fast bowlers while playing four fast men means one will certainly be under-bowled.”
WTC Final: Ajit Agarkar reveals what makes Virat Kohli-led Indian side a force to reckon with
NZ’s Watling ruled out of second Test against England with back injury
WTC Final: India’s challenges against NZ; Jamieson’s height, Boult’s swing, Duke Ball, the list goes on!
WTC Final: ICC to induct 10 legends from different era into ICC Hall of Fame on Sunday
WTC Final: India vs New Zealand: Virat Kohli and boys hit the ground for intense training session
NZ playing 3 Tests in short gap can be an issue; India should consider Agarwal as opener: Hesson
New Zealand to keep key bowlers fresh for WTC final by resting them for 2nd Test against England
Williamson’s left elbow injury being monitored, Boult to play second Test: Stead
‘Cheteshwar Pujara will be the highest run scorer in WTC Final’, predicts Parthiv Patel
WTC Final: ICC appoints officials; Know on-field umpires, third and TV umpires, match referee
Virat Kohli, Team India to get 20-day free-time from bio-bubble life after WTC Final; Know details!
‘Hopefully, I will go to Sri Lanka and get the chance to perform there,’ says Kuldeep Yadav
Get breaking news alerts.
You have already subscribed