‘Bhaj’ joins 400 club
BECOMING India’s most successful bowler in Test cricket.
That’s the next goal of controversial off-spinner Harbhajan Singh as he celebrated his 400th Test wicket in Dominica’s historic debut Test match at Windsor Park on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the day’s play, Harbhajan said he was happy he kept playing the game after his father’s death 11 years ago and has now become the fourth spinner behind Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Shane Warne (708) and Anil Kumble (619) to reach the landmark.
“I am happy and honoured to be a part of those greats who have done well for themselves and their respective countries.
“I am 31 (years old) and still have lot of cricket left in me. I have to make sure that I stay fit and achieve something special. It’s up to me how badly I want to achieve those things,” Harbhajan said.
He noted that throughout his 96-match Test career, which began in 1998, he had to endure some difficult times.
“There have been quite a few bad phases. I have faced lots of ups and downs, mostly downs in my career. Very hardly have I seen ups.
“I lost my dad which was my worst time.
I didn’t want to play cricket after that. Somehow, my family convinced me to fulfill dad’s dream.
“Wherever he is sitting today he must be proud that his son has achieved something special today,” said the man, who is known as “The Turbanator”.
Harbhajan said capturing the seven wickets he needed at the start of the three-match Test series against the West Indies to reach the milestone was very taxing.
“Obviously before I came here I knew that I had 393 wickets. It was there in the back of my mind irrespective of whether I wanted to think about it or not.
“I have worked hard for all these wickets. These last seven wickets made me work harder than anything. It’s over now. It’s done now. Hopefully the next 200 will be easier.
“Taking 400 wickets is something special.
Not many have done that. I am happy with what God has given me. I have enjoyed my journey and I would like to thank all my teammates from 1998 to today,” he said.
Harbhajan recalled that his first Test wicket was Australian batsman Greg Blewett while one of the dismissals he remembers well is getting another Aussie, Mike Hussey, out with a doosra at Bangalore.
“He left it from outside off and it came a long way in. Even I was surprised.
I have only seen Muttiah Muralitharan bowl that kind of delivery.
“I have enjoyed the challenge of bowling to all great batsmen like (Ricky) Ponting – though I have taken his wicket many times he remains a great batsman.”
Harbhajan, who has taken 25 five-wicket hauls and five ten-wicket match hauls, while averaging 31.80 runs a wicket, also listed West Indian Brian Lara and Australians Matthew Hayden and Steve Waugh among some of the best batsmen he has bowled against.
Surprisingly, he credited his teammate and batting icon Sachin Tendulkar as providing him with plenty of advice, whether it is bowling to him in the nets or on tour.
“He showed me one of the balls, the slider.
It becomes very useful in ODI cricket and even Test cricket. I got a couple of wickets with that ball.
“ You hold that ball like an off-spinner but you release the ball with one finger so it just goes like an outswinger. But it can happen only with the new ball, so for that I have to come and bowl with a newish ball.”