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How Saqlain Mushtaq’s doosra paved the way for Harbhajan

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Harbhajan Singh, speaking on former teammate Aakash Chopra’s show Aakash Vani, recalled how Saqlain Mushtaq’s doosra was pivotal in his selection to the Indian cricket team.

Harbhajan has been one of the best exponents of the doosra, which he would refer to as leg-cutter during his early playing days. Speaking to Chopra, Harbhajan highlighted Saqlain’s invention – a ball bowled by an off-spinner that turned away from the right-hander – as helping him rise into India’s ranks.

“There weren’t many bowlers who bowled the doosra back then,” Harbhajan said. “Saqlain Mushtaq was one such bowler. He was immense, a match-winner for his team. Even if he was bowling the last over and you needed only four runs, you’d think he won’t let you score them. So it was that doosra that got me into the Indian team.

“No one else bowled the doosra in India, which pitched and turned away from the batsman and that delivery of mine was, I think, better than the ones bowled by other off-spinners. I used to call it leg-cutter but it came to be known as the doosra because Moin [Khan] would shout from behind the stumps, asking Saqlain to bowl doosra (the other one). And that’s how it got famous.”

Harbhajan’s expertise with the variation led to him to being sent to an India nets session prior to a Test in Mohali, where he caught the eye of Sachin Tendulkar. According to Harbhajan, Tendulkar wished him well and said: “I hope you’ll play for India.” A year later, Harbhajan made his Test debut.

The Indian off-spinner, since making his Test debut in 1998, has picked up 417 wickets in 103 matches. In ODIs, where he debuted in the same year, he has another 269 wickets to show for in 236 appearances.

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