Jalandhar:Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh on Tuesday credited the Indian team's meteoric rise in stature to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's positive captaincy and coach Gary Kirsten's calming influence on the dressing room.
"You can see the results of the positive attitude of our captain. The Indian team won almost all tournaments last year under Dhoni's captaincy," Harbhajan said in an interview.
Harabhajan also lauded Kirsten, saying the South African had played a vital role in making the dressing room a calm place even during tense match situations.
"He is a great coach and the environment of dressing room now has also improved in a positive manner. Even in a very tense situation, all players feel light in the dressing room," he said.
The flamboyant off-spinner reckons India have "almost" become the top side in the world with their performances in recent times but the status would be officially theirs only if they beat New Zealand in March.
"We are almost the number one team as we have already beaten world Champions Australia and a strong team like South Africa and if we beat New Zealand too, the Indian team will achieve the number one status in international cricket," he said.
India beat Australia 2-0 in a home Test series last year after drawing a three-match Test series 1-1 against South Africa in March-April.
Harbhajan has been forced out of the one-day series against Sri Lanka starting from Wednesday due to a hamstring injury. The off-spinner, who has been conferred a Padma Shree this year, said he was recovering well and would be fit in the next couple of weeks.
"I was sent to South Africa for treatment by BCCI and spent about 15 days under the special treatment and improved a lot. Doctors have advised me some physiotherapy exercises and within a couple of weeks I will be fit to play," he said.
"There is some special treatment for hip joint tear in South Africa and several rugby players successfully recovered there and even Zaheer Khan was treated in South Africa," he said, adding that he was injected with white blood cells during the treatment in South Africa.
Pitches in New Zealand are traditionally pace-friendly but Harbhajan said he was expecting the tracks to be slightly more assisting to spin this time around .
"Yes, during the last tour, the pitches in New Zealand were very bad, especially for spinners. I hope that the same will not be repeated this time and pitches will last for all five days," he said.
"I have already learnt to bowl according to the available pitches and will adopt the strategy," he added.
Although he would be sitting out of the one-day series against Sri Lanka, Harbhajan said he would be eagerly following the action and was confident that the Indian batsmen would have no trouble facing up the challenge presented by spin-twins Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan.
"During the last tour, Mendis was a new player and after losing the Test series, India won the ODIs 4-1 because the team learnt to tackle Mendis," Harbhajan said.
On whether he sees himself bettering Muttiah Muralitharan's 500 one-day wickets, Harbhajan said he does not want to compete with greats like him and would rather focus on his own performance.
"Murali is a great player and hats off to him. I don't want to fit myself in Murali's shoes but will be happy to perform like him and try my best," he said.
"I will be happy if I am able to achieve even 80 per cent of what great spinners like Murali and Kumble have," he added.
Harbhajan backed the government's decision to cancel the January-February tour of Pakistan in the wake of Mumbai terror strikes, saying the mass sentiment could not be ignored.
"We respect the sentiments of countrymen and government as they are our guide and as per the guidelines, the Pakistan tour was cancelled," he said.