At the felicitation function for four of India’s most outstanding cricketers on Thursday evening, Anil Kumble had this to say to Harbhajan Singh: “You are standing on the verge of a major landmark and I hope you will go on to the become India’s most successful bowler.”
On Friday, the offspinner known as much for his turbulent nature as his turban full of tricks wasted little time in completing the first part of what Kumble was saying. By cleaning up Ricky Ponting for the 10th time in his career, he became the third Indian to take 300 Test wickets.
Coming just days after the country’s most successful bowler decided to quit, it was a curious moment. Despite India's pace stocks rising in recent times, spin continues to play an important role and with Harbhajan's mission to become the flag-bearer in this department began India's search for more options.
Harbhajan is a proven matchwinner and a feisty customer who gets charged up when things get intense and more often than not, he comes out on top. His many confrontations with Australians may well make it to Indian cricket lore.
The challenge for India now is to find a partner for Harbhajan and even a replacement, considering injuries or breaks that players will suffer and need in this non-stop bombardment of cricket. It's more so in his case, because he is hot property in all three forms of the game.
The likes of Piyush Chawla, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha are under observation at the moment and players like Mohnish Parmar and R. Ashwin are making a mark. The names of Iqbal Abdullah and Ravindra Jadeja have also been heard.
In life after Kumble, India begin the search with Harbhajan on the forefront. It is in the benefit of Indian cricket that he needs competition. Not just in terms of alternatives but also because competition gets the best out of him.