WC 2003 - Harbhajan will play important role in India~~s campaign

Published: Saturday, March 8, 2003, 23:31 [IST]
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Johannesburg: Former batting great Peter Kirsten is looking forward to the spinners' duel in the India-Sri Lanka game at Wanderers on Monday and feels the time has come for Harbhajan Singh and Muttiah Muralitharan to leave their mark in the World Cup."Harbhajan Singh vs Muttiah Muralitharan should provide some high quality spin to this World Cup which is still missing the presence of Shane Warne," said Kirsten who, despite the lost years of apartheid, managed 626 runs from 12 Tests at 31.30 besides knocking off 22,635 first class runs in his career spanning 24 years.The former South African player termed Harbhajan as a key player in India's campaign for the remainder of the tournament as conditions were likely to favour his brand of off spin. "He is likely to play an important role in India's campaign as the summer is now lengthening and wickets are getting drier," said Kirsten. "His spin can prove an important weapon in India's armoury." Kirsten said while both Harbhajan and Murali are quality off spinners, they provide different challenges to the batsmen. "Harbhajan spins it from the stumps but Murali prefers pitching it way outside the off-stump to control the degree of his huge spin." Harbhajan and Murali have so far had relatively average World Cup but the prospects of key games coming up should see these two champion bowlers raise their game by a notch or two. Harbhajan has so far claimed 88 wickets from 66 games at 29.48 games while Murali has snared 316 wickets from 209 games. The two are proven match winners though Murali, with 437 wickets from 78 Tests, has already sealed his place as one of the greatest spinners in the history of the game.Warne, man-of-the-series in the last edition of the World Cup in England in 1999, quit the current one in humiliation after he tested positive for a banned drug before the start of Australia's campaign. Even while talking about spinners, Kirsten could not miss mentioning maestro Sachin Tendulkar saying "No-one holds the fate of India more than the little genius Sachin Tendulkar in his hands. "He is an absolute marvel, plainly the best batsman of the world at present," he said. Kirsten asked his Western Province guys to gather aroundthe nets and have a look at Tendulkar on the eve of the opening game at Newlands on Thursday. "Forget the manuals, just come and look at this guy if you wish to learn batting," was Kirsten's diktat as everyone promptly turned their attention to the Indian master knocking the ball around the park.Kirsten is currently the coach of Western Province which has in its ranks the likes of Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs. Kirsten too seems to have joined the growing band of Sachin Tendulkar's admirers in this World Cup and isabsolutely floored by the methods he employs to hone his batting skills. "Just looking at him, how he bats against the rubber ball to get practice against fast bouncy stuff is educational stuff," said Kirsten. "These old, trusted methods still hold good for any batsman." Kirsten is impressed by Tendulkar's body balance while waiting for the bowler to deliver or executing his strokes. "His balance is extra-ordinary still head, bat close to the body and copybook footwork. He is showing the full face of the bat most of the time and you could look in his eyes hewants to win the World Cup for his country badly." PTI

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