Harbhajan took to twitter after Virat Kohli’s side were bowled out for 105 and 107 inside three days to criticise the quality of the pitch in Pune where Steve Smith scored his 18th Test century.
Harbhajan’s comments will be viewed with interest by some, after the Australia team made a mockery of the former Test spinner’s pre-series prediction of an Indian whitewash. “I have played against some of the best Australian sides. In my opinion, looking at the composition, this is the weakest Australian side to tour India,” Harbhajan told PTI in the lead-up to the Pune Test.
“I don’t think this team has the wherewithal to cope with a quality Indian side in the Indian conditions. It can again be 4-0 like 2013 season.”
Instead it is India that have some soul searching to do before the second Test in Bengaluru in a week on March 4, particularly for the No.1 ranked team’s much-vaunted batting line-up.
India captain Virat Kohli downplayed the impact of the wicket after the Test. “I don’t think it was any different from the turners that we played on in the past. We just didn’t play good cricket,” Kohli told reporters after play. “They exploited it better than us. They put us under pressure throughout and deserved to win this game ... there are no excuses,” he said.
Harbhajan had also taken aim at Smith and fast bowler Mitchell Starc, questioning their credentials to prosper in India. “Most of Smith’s centuries are against spinners on Australian pitches,” Harbhajan said.
“The length varies, there’s less turn and the bounce makes it easier for strokeplayers. In India, Ashwin and Jadeja on these tracks will pose far bigger challenge for Smith. “The series is starting at a time when India summer commences … Starc would find it difficult to bowl more than three or four overs at full tilt in this heat and humidity. Also how many overs will Starc bowl in an innings? 20 overs. So how much his body will hold during the third or fourth spell will be key.”
Such was the dominance of Australia’s bowlers against the India batsmen, Starc and Josh Hazlewood were only required to bowl 20 overs between them across the entire Test.