New Delhi: Harbhajan Singh makes his debut for Essex against Gloucestershire today. The turbanator, who has been left out in the cold for over a year now will make a bid to comeback to team India for the world T20 championships.
The 32-year-old, who has taken 683 international wickets, has been left out of the India squad since last summer's tour to England. Harbhajan's previous county experience have been with Surrey in 2004 and 2007.
He now returns to the same country that witnessed his decline a year back, although the slide started against Sri Lanka in 2010. In 15 tests thereafter, he picked up 51 wickets at the average of 40. The only high point was reaching the 400th wicket landmark in that period.
Bhajji did bowl well during Mumbai Indians' victorious Champions League T20 campaign. However, he hit a trough in the Ranji season that followed. India has been persisting with R Ashwin as their lead-spinner and experimenting on and off with the second spinner - Pragyan Ojha, Rahul Sharma.
County cricket could now help in a turnaround of Turbanator's flagging career. His previous stint with Surrey in 2007 led to a team India return for the inaugural World T20 championships. Bhajji would be hoping for an encore.
It is not just Harbhajan though who has turned to county cricket. The county experience made Zaheer Khan a transformed bowler in 2006. The outing helped him regain form and get to the peak of his fitness as well.
Harbhajan, 32, has played 98 Test Matches for India and 227 One Day Internationals. Time may not be on his side but he does not have to look too far for inspiration. Anil Kumble started peaking around 33 and transformed his bowling style.
He is no stranger to Chelmsford, having taken 7-83 and 1-23 when Essex met India in a drawn match at The Ford County Ground back in 2002. His haul of victims in the first innings included his 300th wicket in first-class matches when he dismissed Jon Dakin.