Former Australia opener Matthew Hayden feels Ravichandran Ashwin’s stats are “simply phenomenal” but Harbhajan Singh in his prime had to shoulder more responsibility since he did not have the fast bowling support, which the Tamil Nadu tweaker gets.
Ashwin recently broke Dennis Lillee’s record to become the fastest bowler to 300 wickets in 54 Test matches.
Hayden had faced Harbhajan in his prime and also watched young Ashwin from close quarters during his days with Chennai Super Kings.
“I think stats often lie but having said that, some of the milestone show remarkable respect to Ravichandran Ashwin, who is fastest to 300 wickets in Test cricket. Even if he (Ashwin) plays for another five years, he would be remembered as one of the greats of his generation. His skill-set, like Harbhajan, is masterful but he is probably not as attacking off-spinner as Harbhajan was, Hayden told PTI during an exclusive interview.
He put the comparison in context by taking into account the kind of bowling attacks these two had for support.
“But then Ashwin doesnt really need to be as attacking as Bhajji. His role within this side is well-defined by a slightly better fast bowling attack (as support cast) than what my generation was facing. You line-up Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and put Jasprit Bumrah into the mix with Jadeja as the second spinner as well. So Ashwin is playing his role and doing it successfully, Hayden explained.
“Harbhajan I thought in his era was ‘the dominant bowler’ especially against Australia so if Bhajji wasn’t taking wickets, India were in trouble. I don’t think Venkatesh Prasad was a wonderful Test match bowler. I think Harbhajan was the lone role maker.
“With due respect, Zaheer Khan or Javagal Srinath were wonderful bowlers but I think they were less of a threat compared to guys that are there now, Hayden said.