New Delhi:Those who doubt his utility outside the sub-continent and mastery over the craft can take a walk, for Harbhajan Singh insists he knows his business and loathes unwarranted advice.
In an interview with PTI, the feisty off-spinner revealed exactly how much respect, or rather lack of it, he has for his critics, who questioned his efficacy outside the sub-continental dustbowls.
"These people need to go through the records. I have taken wickets outside the sub-continent, in the West Indies and England. I guess some people need a reason to go after me," said Harbhajan, who finished as the leading wicket-taker in India's recent tour of New Zealand.
"But to be honest, I don't play for them. At the end of the day, I play for my country which is, for me, much bigger than anything else. I feel great whenever I do well for the country," said the Punjab spinner.
And those who felt he often tended to bowl faster through air, Harbhajan said he knows his craft well and people better keep their opinions to themselves.
"See, I know what it requires to be successful at the highest level. I have taken 330 wickets in Test matches and 200-plus in ODIs. That goes on to show that I know what is required to win matches for the team", he said.
"Those who are sitting in the comfort of their drawing rooms and watching the matches on television better mind their business. They have no business telling me what to do," Harbhajan said.
The 28-year-old spinner from Jalandhar believes his rich success in New Zealand has not only silenced the critics but also established himself as a senior member of the side, spearheading the spin department led by Anil Kumble till the other day.
"Winning the series in New Zealand was highly satisfying. I really enjoyed myself there. I got wickets in the Twenty20 matches and was the highest wicket-taker in both the Test and ODI series. I want to keep performing like this.
"I had to take the responsibility (in Kumble's absence). When Anil Bhai was around, the workload used to get shared. Now I'm not only the senior-most spinner but also the senior-most bowler in the side and naturally I have lot of responsibilities on my shoulders," he said.
He took 16 wickets in the three-match Test series and 5 scalps in the one-dayers.
Harbhajan's batting was a revelation in New Zealand where the 77-Test veteran proved he was much more than just a mindless slogger.
His 60 in the first Test against New Zealand propped India in Wellington and Harbhajan said while the team can always expect some runs from his bat in crises, time was ripe to get his maiden Test century.
"The team can definitely bank on me for those important runs. If you notice, all my innings so far have come at crucial times. Sometimes it was to save the match and sometimes to build the innings. I'm happy to chip in with the bat and it is high time I should get my hundred in Test cricket," Harbhajan said.
And it's more than just his personal wish, he said.
"All of my teammates say 'you are good enough to score a Test hundred, and more than one hundred'. They only ask me to be more focussed and concentrate on shot selections. If I can improve on those I'll be getting big runs," Harbhajan said.
Batting down the order with mostly the tailenders for company, the job would not be easy and Harbhajan reckons he would have to make the most when he has a middle order batsman at the other end.
"It's indeed difficult with tailenders but at times, I do get to bat along with someone like (VVS) Laxman or (MS) Dhoni. There were a few chances where I should have got my hundred but I think it will come if I keep working on batting and keep myself in that zone," he said.
And whenever he misses an opportunity to reach the landmark, Harbhajan finds himself invariably at the receiving end of some admonishing words from Sachin Tendulkar.
"Whenever I score 50-60 important runs, Tendulkar says 'wish you got a hundred'.
"Many times, Sachin has told me that it's time to get a hundred. Even when I got out after 60 (in Wellington) and came back in the dressing room, he said 'you should have got hundred. You should have just played more according to the situation there. There was hardly 6-7 overs were left, you should have played on,'" Harbhajan said.
The spinner himself has worked out a reason why he has got four fifties under the belt but still no century.
"Sachin and others have got the experience, after all they have scored hundreds so many times. So when they speak, they speak from experience on how to score a hundred.
"I guess I don't know how to get a hundred because I have not scored one! But hopefully I'll get a hundred sooner or later. And once I get the first hundred, things would subsequently be easier, for I too would be knowing what it takes to get that," he quipped.