Bangalore:Harbhajan Singh is not playing in the ongoing Asia Cup tournament in Pakistan, and that's because he is serving a five-ODI suspension imposed on him by the BCCI, following the slapping incident involving him and India teammate S Sreesanth.
Bhajji slapped Sree in the April 25 match between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab, following which he was banned from playing in the IPL, which cost him Rs three crore.
The BCCI subsequently appointed Sudhir Nanavati to conduct a separate investigation into the issue and the spinner was handed down a five-ODI ban.
Now, the off-spinner has spoken out for the first time since the slapping incident.
In an exclusive interview to NDTV, a remorseful Harbhajan has said that he is learning from his mistakes.
Extracts from the interview:
NDTV: Bhajji, you're at the NCA practicing and preparing for Sri Lanka. How is that going?
Bhajji: I'm here at the NCA, working hard in my game. it's nice to be back with the boys and training with them. I'm really enjoying my time here and really looking forward to the Sri Lanka tour and getting back to playing again and doing well.
NDTV: India was playing Pakistan in the final at Dhaka. How difficult is it to sit out and not be part of the game where you could make a difference?
Bhajji: Of course I want to be there. I wish I was there. Koi bhi cricketer chahta hai kee woh zyaade se zyaada game khele but jo cheez nahin ho sakti woh nahin ho sakti. I had to watch it on TV. It would be nice to be playing and contributing to my team's success but....
NDTV: We've always associated passion with Bhajji. But sometimes that passion can go overboard. How do you plan to control your aggression in the future since you have to be very careful now?
Bhajji: I never plan to get into trouble. It just..... I'm very passionate about my game and I just love playing for my country. I get too involved, I want to win, I want to win each and every game and I want to deliver in difficult situations. I want to be there for the team, I want to be there for the nation when it's required and then when you get so involved... suddenly... kabhi aapko pata nahin chalta kya cheeze aap uske saath kar rahe ho par I'm sure ... I've learned a lot from whatever's happened... jo bhi hua hai peechlay kuch maheeno mein and I can promise that I'll still play with a lot of passion. I'm just very passionate.... I can't just be different... mein waise nahin khel sakta hoon... desh ke liye khelta hoon toh mujhe woh bahut meri country ka sawaal hai sirf mera sawaal nahin hai.... I want to play that way but I'll try to control my emotions and other things... jo kisi ko effect na kare aur mujhe is cheez se effect na kare. Ye ek bhagwan ka sikhane jka tareeka hota hai.
NDTV: The whole nation was behind you when all those events happened in Australia. Do you feel you've let them down?
Bhajji: I want to thank everyone who supported me in difficult times. All I can tell them is just be with me and trust me and I'm sure if they do so I won't let them down. Sirf ground pe nahin par ground ke bahaar bhi jo meri life hai, jo karoonga bas acchay ke liye karoonga.
NDTV: So many ups and downs .... when you look back at the last 10 years you've been playing, are there things that you regret and wish you'd never done?
Bhajji: There are a lot of things I would've done differently. But we're all human, and we all make mistakes and we learn from them. But few things.... agar mere ko gussa kam aaye toh usse kaafi kuch solve ho jayega. But at the end of the day, you have to think before you do and take your time. I will learn.
NDTV: Where do you find the strength to emerge stronger from each controversy?
Bhajji: I don't know. I just feel there is some power that allows me to deal with these sort of things. When I was just 19, I had to get a biomechanics test. It happened again in 2004-05. It was very tough for me to get out of all that. But I just take things as they come and pray to god that he should help me in difficult situations.
NDTV: How important is the support of your teammates in difficult times like these?
Bhajji: You have to earn that respect in the dressing room. They know I can deliver in difficult situations, I've done that for them and for myself and for my country. It's always great to have team support when you require it because it's like a family and we have to support each other. I'm sure if I require their support tomorrow because tomorrow they could be on my seat and I ll be there to support them.
NDTV: You were captain of Mumbai Indians in the IPL. What was the biggest learning lesson from captaincy?
Bhajji: Learning lesson ek hi tha... that you have to be calm, very calm and you have to control. You don't have to show your anger, frustration. You just have to be calm and take things very, very calmly.
NDTV: What does your mother tell you? What advice does she give you when you get into trouble? We've always seen her defending you saying my son is innocent?
Bhajji: My mother does not know much about cricket and neither has she seen much of the world. Like any other mother, she loves her son. But she often asks me: Why does this keep happening with you? Why does your name constantly get associated with controversy?"
NDTV: So what do you say to her?
Bhajji: I assure her I won't get into more trouble. I don't do anything deliberately, it just happens to me. I never intend to hurt anyone. But sometimes these things just happen. Sometimes, it's necessary to get a jolt. I will be more careful from now on. You learn from these experiences. If you don't then too bad. But if you do then you can touch great heights, not just in cricket but also in life.