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One way he could rediscover his attacking instincts, according to long-term mentor and newly appointed Punjab coach Vikram Rathore, is to return to domestic cricket. Harbhajan, who last played for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy in 2007, doesn’t have to look too far for a precedent. After being dropped from the Test team following the Sri Lanka tour last year, Yuvraj Singh got back in the groove with 313 runs in three Ranji matches for Punjab.
“When you are playing for your state in domestic cricket, you tend to enjoy cricket and de-stress yourself. I am sure Harbhajan can get back his confidence like that,” Rathore said.
Reckoning that the grind of playing non-stop in the World Cup, IPL and in the West Indies has taken a toll on the offie, Rathore said Harbhajan needs to start using his variations again. “If he plays in Ranji Trophy, he will get a chance to bowl long spells and also use his variations without any fear. Ranji gives you a chance to rediscover yourself. It will also tell the selectors that he is still hungry,” he said.
Harbhajan’s coach and Dronacharya awardee Desh Prem Azad echoed Rathore’s thoughts.
“I won’t say that Harbhajan is in the twilight phase of his career, but yes, he needs to show more grit if he wants to be part of the Indian team for the coming years. I think playing in the Ranji Trophy can provide a good platform to Harbhajan to get his top form back.