Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin are two of the greatest off-spinners that world cricket has ever seen. Both the champion off-spinners have claimed in excess of 400 wickets in Test match cricket.
Ashwin recently leapfrogged Harbhajan Singh to become the second-most successful spinner for India in home conditions besides becoming the second-fastest after Muttiah Muralitharan to claim 400 Test wickets.
Ever since Ravichandran Ashwin has joined the elite list involving 400 wicket-takers, a debate has ensued among fans and cricket pundits on who among Harbhajan Singh and the Tamil Nadu tweaker is the better exponent of off-spin bowling.
Ian Bell, who has batted against both Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin during his career, was asked the same during a segment on ESPNCricinfo, where he said that he found the former tough to counter given his ability to extract bounce on Indian surfaces.
“I would say Harbhajan to an extent but again back then there was no DRS. In another way, it was a little bit easier. I found it tough against Harbhajan and his doosra but again certainly in Indian conditions, they were both tough nuts. I thought I could score runs against Harbhajan in England. There was more pace on the ball… the bounce was a bit more consistent, not much turn,” Ian Bell said on the ‘Runorder’ show on ESPNcricinfo.
Bell, however, paid tribute to a bag of tricks that Ravichandran Ashwin has at his disposal besides adding that the Tamil Nadu off-spinner was a ‘bit better’ than Harbhajan during his initial days.
Ashwin has a few more tricks, with his angles and how he used them in Test matches so far. His tricks without using the doosra are fascinating, but probably looking back, Ashwin early in his career was probably a bit better but I struggled a little more against Harbhajan. But probably wouldn’t want to face either,” Bell added.
While Ashwin recently leapfrogged Harbhajan Singh as far as his performances in India are concerned, his overseas record is also vastly superior as compared to his predecessor. Ashwin has claimed 123 wickets in 55 innings at an average of 31.18, Harbhajan Singh managed 152 wickets in 87 innings at 38.90.