It has been an extraordinary 11 months for Harbhajan Singh. The journey began with a maiden Test century against New Zealand at Ahmedabad, quickly followed by a second. A few months later, he nearly spun India to a maiden Test series win in South Africa. On April 2, he lifted the World Cup. On July 7, he completed 400 Test wickets.
Life came full circle on the tour of England. It's a place that the Turbanator has never enjoyed. In five Tests there, he has taken 14 wickets at an average of close to 50.00 runs per wicket. Criticism has been flying thick and fast, but that hasn't perturbed the off-spinner. In fact, some section of the media even speculated that he faked the injury to avoid further embarrassment in England. Harbhajan, who returned home after intense rehabilitation for a career-threatening abdomen injury last week, is ready for a rebirth.
"I am 100 per cent fit and raring to go for all the cricket ahead. These are valuable life lessons, and I take these things in my stride. I don't get upset by what people say," Harbhajan told MiD DAY yesterday. The 31-year old, who picked up a rare abdominal strain during the Nottingham Test against England in July, prematurely returned home from the tour. "I have worked really hard at the National Cricket Academy. I am looking forward to the Champions League T20, and also the coming home series (against England and West Indies)," he added.
Prior to setting foot on the flight to the UK, Harbhajan vowed to revive his career there. After splendid performances in New Zealand and South Africa, he wanted to do the same in England.
He had spoken at length with Muttiah Muralitharan (during the Indian Premier League earlier this year) on what sort of lengths a bowler must bowl to succeed in England. "Obviously, the injury came at the wrong time. But, I don't think about the timing -- it's always bad -- whether it was in a home series or away series. An injury is an injury. There was lot of sadness to come back home soon. "But I have never felt this good about my bowling. This is going to be a rebirth of sorts for me. I am going to get my rhythm back.
"I have to applaud the facilities at NCA. The way people have taken care of me over there. The gym instructors were always taking care of me. I had stopped reading newspapers and watching TV because people have a lot to say. "I am honest to myself and know that I have a lot more to contribute for the country. This is a new beginning. I still have four or five years of cricket left in me," added Harbhajan.
When asked to react to off-spinning great Erapalli Prasanna's view that 'Harbhajan gets his length right only 30 per cent of the time', he said: "They are great bowlers. Who am I to say anything? I cannot comment on what they have said. They must know better."Â Attribute that comment to a touch of humour or swagger? Maybe both? That'd perhaps be a fine way to define this feisty cricketer's vocabulary.
Here's what Harbhajan's critics had to say about him
Yes he's got 400 wickets, but he hasn't been doing very well recently. He hasn't been getting many, and hasn't been winning matches. Maybe the pitches haven't been helpful, but he hasn't even been tying people down
- Geoffrey Boycott
It is clear that Harbhajan is not performing as well as he was doing. He is not being able to bowl to the field. The captain should not be setting the field for a bad ball. That is not acceptable at international level
- Dilip Doshi
They (Indian selectors) have not also faced up to the fact that Harbhajan Singh has not been a good attacking weapon for at least for a good two years now
- Ian Chappell