By Vivek Prabhakar SinghJalandhar (Punjab) [India], January 9 (ANI): Harbhajan Singh had a very successful career as a cricketer playing 103 Tests, 236 ODIs and 28 T20Is for the country picking up 417 wickets in Tests and 294 wickets overall in limited-overs cricket.
Despite playing an important role in the 2007 T20 World Cup and the 2011 50-over World Cup triumphs, the wily off-spinner and other stars did not get a chance to play another 50-over World Cup for their country. They include 2011 WC 'Player of the series' Yuvraj Singh, leading wicket-taker Zaheer Khan, opener Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
"It would have been nice to play another world cup together with all my colleagues like Yuvraj and Virender Sehwag. When I took 400 Test wickets, I was only 31 and in 2011 also, I was 31. At 31, I was doing really well and I was fitter than many who actually were playing the game. After that, things did not go our way. I don't know what happened and who was behind it but whatever happened it's gone. There is no point talking about it. But yes would have been nice to play another world cup with Viru, Yuvi and maybe Gautam Gambhir as well. We guys were fit enough to be the part of the 2015 World Cup team which did not happen. That is something which was not in our hands and all I have to say is whatever opportunities we have got, whatever we have done for Indian cricket. I always want to be grateful for that and love all the opportunities we have got by the BCCI. I am going to be grateful for that and people have said a lot about that 2012, 2013, 2014 period why those guys did not play who won the world cup for India which I do not have the answer. You guys don't have the answer. I don't know who can give the answer but you must ask the BCCI. At that time, the BCCI that why these guys did not play together after winning the 2011 World Cup. We were not in our late 30s, we were in our starting 30s. I was 31, Viru was like 31-32, Yuvi was 29-30 and we never got to play another world cup which is quite strange actually." explained Harbhajan Singh while talking to ANI.
The 'Turbanator' played a pivotal role in many Indian victories. The 2001 Test series win against the then mighty Australians under the leadership of Steve Waugh as well as the 2007 T20 World Cup and 2011 50-over World Cup. But without a doubt for Harbhajan, it was the 2011 World Cup that stands out for him.
"It will be very difficult for me to pick one special moment. Obviously, if it has to be picking one, then nothing like winning the 2011 World Cup at home but yes keeping that in mind how special it was I don't want to forget what made me that cricketer Harbhajan Singh was that series against Australia where I took 32 wickets and I became the first Indian to take that hat-trick. That series gave me a lot of confidence because that series happened for me and I could perform the way I did and that made me know who I am and because of that I played the 2007 World Cup. Obviously, that was a very special moment not just for us but a very proud moment for all the Indians. Everybody was happy that we won the T20 world cup and winning the 2011 World Cup was a very special one. So, these moments were always special and will always be very close to my heart." explained Harbhajan Singh to ANI.
From 1998 to 2016, Harbhajan Singh gave numerous moments of celebration to India through his performances with both bat and ball. With so many performances, it is really a tough choice for someone like a Harbhajan Singh to pick one.
"It will be very hard to choose my personal moment. But yes playing for India was a very special thing for me whenever I wore that India jersey to represent my country on the field was a very special moment and every day was a very special day but if I have to pick any one performance of mine, then I will pick that those two back to back centuries against New Zealand as that was something really big for me to achieve in my career as a bowler. I wish I could have taken my batting a little bit more seriously but whenever I took my batting seriously in the later part of my cricketing career, I always scored runs whether it was T20 or Test cricket. I wish I had Gary Kirsten very early in my career who actually helped me to become a better batsman in the later part. So, yes I will pick that moment where I will pick those two back to back hundreds against New Zealand in Test cricket." told Harbhajan Singh to ANI.
The long career of wily off-spinner was also surrounded with a lot of controversies from his bowling action being questioned to the monkeygate saga in Australia in 2007-08 to Sreesanth's slapgate controversy. But all these never stopped Harbhajan from performing.
"Basically it was just the love for the game which keeps me going. I made sure no matter what happens I don't want my cricket to suffer no matter what happens. So, I just kept focusing on my cricketing skills. I worked even harder in those difficult scenarios, difficult periods when we talk about those moments what you were talking about, that Andrew Symonds moment or that Sreesanth moment or whatever controversies that happened. I just focused on the game and made sure that my game should not suffer because of these other things happening around me. So, that was probably one thing that has kept me going and I am glad that I pulled it through." told Harbhajan to ANI.
Harbhajan Singh made his debut under Mohammad Azharuddin in 1998, made his comeback under Sourav Ganguly and excelled under his captaincy. Later on, the off-spinner also played under the leadership of Rahul Dravid, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and even Virat Kohli.
"My job was to bowl well for India. It did not matter to me who was captaining the team. As far as I am concerned I needed to bowl well. I needed to take wickets for my team to win and of course, I did my part to the best of my capability and for me, it did not matter whether it was Sourav Ganguly leading, Dhoni leading or Virat Kohli leading or anybody leading. So, I am grateful that all these captains I played with or played under supported me and I supported them with those performances for Team India." explained Harbhajan to ANI on playing under different captains.
The Indian cricketing legend has thanked the fans and supporters for all the love and at the same time, he has requested them to stay safe as corona and Omicron cases are on the rise in the country.
"I just want to say thank you so much to the fans and supporters who supported me. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. You all loved me a lot and I want to say that whatever I became as a cricketer is because of your immense love, support and respect. I want to wish each and everyone to stay happy and healthy. We are going through a phase where we are trying to stay safe as coronavirus is still around." said Harbhajan Singh urging everyone to stay safe.
The Indian off-spinner will not only be missed for his performances and contributions for the country but also for the passion and aggression he played the game with. (ANI)