Veteran India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and Sri Lanka batting legend Kumar Sangakkara are part of the commentary team for the ongoing England-India Test series. Recently, the old foes had a fascinating discussion on off-spin and how they went about their business before going head-to-head.
"The biggest challenge (in playing Sangakkara) was he bats for a very long time. He had all the shots, he could drive the ball, he could cut, play the sweep and it was always challenging to bowl to him," Harbhajan said in Sky Sports’ off-spin masterclass.
Sangakkara, who faced Harbhajan in 58 matches across all formats between 2001 and 2015, also complimented the offie, saying: "With Bhajji it was his ability and skill to drift it in to you but he could also drift it away from you, which was really strange for me, especially in one-day cricket.”
"There were times I got stumped running down expecting to hit straight back over him because he would be drifting it back in to me and suddenly I would find he's drifted it away from me. He also had the ability to exploit spin and pace off the wicket much more than most spinners I've faced," he added.
Sangakkara scored 10 double centuries in 134 Tests during his 16-year career for Sri Lanka. Among his 10 double tons in Test cricket, the one that stood out the most was his masterful 219 against India in Colombo in 2010.
Recalling that knock, Harbhajan said Sangakkara’s decision to stay in the crease and play on the front and back foot made it so challenging to bowl against him.
"He (Sangakkara) didn't want to get caught in the crease and worked everything either towards midwicket or swept," Singh remarked.
"In my mind, that put in maybe I have to bowl a bit wider to him to make him drive but it allowed him to stay in the crease and cut," he further asserted.
Explaining his decision to stay back in the crease, former Sri Lanka captain said it was because Harbhajan had the unique ability to drift the ball both ways.
"He has sharp turn and drift either way and has the ability to react very late to a batsman coming down. A lot more than other spinners who you can surprise by coming down the wicket,” Sangakkara stated.
"I trusted my defence, I know bowlers - like batsmen - run out of patience so then what I'm waiting to score off is shorter and quicker (deliveries)," he concluded.
(With inputs from Sky Sports)