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Harbhajan Singh: A pure passionate match-winner and fierce competitor

New Delhi, Dec 24, 2021- Veteran India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who on Friday bid adieu to cricket after a glorious career spanning 23 years, was a pure passionate match-winner and played the game on his own terms whenever he stepped into a playground.

Born in Jalandhar, Punjab, the 41-year old represented India in 103 Tests, 236 ODIs, and 28 T20Is, picking up 417, 269, and 25 wickets respectively. His overall tally of 711 international wickets is the second-highest for India, behind Anil Kumble’s 953. He was also a handy contributor with the bat, scoring 3,569 runs with two centuries and nine fifties.

Bowling with a windmilling, whiplash action, remodeled after he was reported for throwing, Harbhajan deals by varying his length and pace, and can turn it the other way too. His deadliest ball, however, is the one that climbs wickedly from a length, forcing a hurried jab.

Three years after making his debut, it seemed like the off-spinner’s career was going downhill. However, Sourav Ganguly, then India captain, was firm in his backing for getting ‘Sardar’ in the squad for the historical 2001 home series against Australia. Harbhajan didn’t let his skipper down and took the series by storm with 32 wickets from three Tests including a hat-trick, the first by an Indian.

From there, he never looked back and played regularly and won matches for India until the emergence of R Ashwin.

In an international career that lasted from 1998 to 2016, the veteran cricketer had some memorable moments and was a part of the 2007 T20 World Cup and 2011 World Cup-winning squad.

A look into the best moments/achievements of Harbhajan Singh’s cricketing career.

Hattrick:

Harbhajan’s 32-wicket effort in the historic 2001 Test series against Australia, is one of the finest performances ever by an Indian spinner.

In the second Test of that series, the off-spinner etched his name in the history books by becoming the first Indian to claim a Test hat-trick. Harbhajan dismissed Ricky Ponting (6), Adam Gilchrist (0), and Shane Warne (0) in the 72nd over of Australia’s first innings at Eden Gardens in Kolkata to achieve the feat.

“Speaking about my cricket career. My first moment of joy was when I took a hat-trick in Kolkata, becoming the first Indian to do so in Test cricket. During that series, I took 32 wickets in three matches, and it is still a record,” Harbhajan said while announcing his retirement on Friday.

ICC titles:

Harbhajan also was a key member of the Indian side that reached the summit clash of the 2003 50-over World Cup and eventually won the title in 2011 where he took nine wickets. He also was a part of the set-up that won the maiden T20 World Cup in 2007 in South Africa.

Memorable foreign tours:

The off-spinner also was one of the major contributors of India’s memorable overseas wins in Leeds (2002) and Durban (2010-11 season), finishing with four and six wickets respectively. He recorded his best Test figures away from home — 7 for 120 — in the drawn Test in Cape Town in 2010-11.

IPL performance:

The veteran has had great success in the IPL too, taking 150 wickets in 163 matches, fifth on the all-time list. His best season in the IPL came in 2013 when he took 24 wickets at an average of 19 for the Mumbai Indians.

Harbhajan’s longest association with a franchise was with Mumbai Indians, who bought him in the 2008 auction and retained him ahead of the mega auctions in 2011 and 2014. Released ahead of the 2018 mega auction, Harbhajan had two years with Chennai Super Kings before finishing up with Knight Riders.

Controversies:

The experienced campaigner has also had his fair share of controversies, most prominently the ‘Monkey-gate’ scandal when India toured Australia in 2007-08. His confrontation with Andrew Symonds created one of the ugliest controversies in cricket — he was initially charged with racial insult, which was reduced to abuse on appeal.

Later that year, he was banned for the whole IPL season for slapping Sreesanth, his Indian teammate after a match in Mohali.  (Agency)

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