One of the quirks about the Indian Premier League is that the number of players shared by the two most successful teams in the history of the tournament. There are a number of cricketers who have played for multiple franchises but the ones who have played on both sides of the greatest rivalry yet in IPL stand out more.
In terms of the biggest Indian names to have done that, Harbhajan Singh stands top of the list.
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One of Indian cricket’s superstars, Harbhajan played for Mumbai Indians from the beginning of the tournament till 2017. He features in the top bowlers and batsmen lists for the franchise where he enjoyed great success. He, then, moved to Chennai Super Kings when the franchise returned from suspension and has won a title with the men in yellow as well.
All that puts Harbhajan in a great position to compare the captaincy styles of the two most successful leaders in the history of IPL.
About his current captain, Harbhajan said that Dhoni is someone who hardly interferes with the bowler’s game plans. From various quarters it is known that Dhoni rarely attends bowling meetings because he trusts them to come up with the plans and execute.
“He is not a captain who says, do this, do that. He wants you to do what you know you can do,” Harbhajan told the Cricket Monthly in an interview.
“Bowl what you know you can. If you can bowl six off-spinners, do that. Yes, he has nudged me at times - from behind the stumps or at change of overs - saying, this guy is trying to do this or will try this. But he never tells me what to do.”
Harbhajan recalled an incident with CSK bowler Shardul Thakur who was getting clobbered during a match.
“I went to Dhoni and told him, ‘Why don’t you tell him [Thakur] to change the angle or push a fielder back?’ As if he had all the time in the world, Dhoni said to me, ‘Bhajju pa, if I tell him anything now, he will get confused. Khaane do (Let him go for a few). So Dhoni will not tell you until you realise you are short of ideas,” the off-spinner said.
Regarding Rohit’s captaincy, Harbhajan said it was all about getting the opponent back in the pavilion as quickly as possible.
“Rohit also gives a lot of freedom to the bowlers but thinks wickets at all times. He will not interfere with your bowling. If you want an attacking field, he will give it. It is not compulsory that if a left-hander comes, you get a slip whether the balls spins or not. Then at times we have had a short leg and two slips,” Harbhajan said, adding that Rohit would not hesitate to set Test-match fields if the situation called for that.
Speaking about Rohit Sharma’s batting, Harbhajan said the MI captain rarely goes bang-bang in the nets. The veteran bowler said Rohit prefers to play shots along the ground and chooses which balls to hit. “If you are out ten times in the nets, are you practising to get out? You will not be successful hitting out each time,” Harbhajan said when speaking about some players just go for the big shots blindly during practice sessions.
You can read the full interview with Harbhajan Singh, where he talks about the art of finger-spin in great detail, here.
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