Sport can make or mar in moments — the man on top can in no time find that the going has suddenly gone tough. Harbhajan Singh is no stranger to this experience, having gone through ups and downs in what still has been a remarkable career.
The number one choice when Sourav Ganguly was the captain, Harbhajan has now been demoted to the second spinner’s slot. The turban tweaker says he doesn't think being out of the XI should lead to grave concerns. He has matured a lot indeed, which became evident in the way he avoided dallying with controversy during his chat with HT.
Excerpts from the interview:
With India fighting to get the opposition out on the fifth day in successive Tests, how did it feel being merely a spectator?
As a bowler, obviously you want to go out and bowl. You certainly want to play all the time, because at the end of the day, everybody wants to win the match for the team. Still, I have to accept that only 11 can play and the team management has decided to pick those they think would best suit the purpose.
How do you overcome this disappointment?
I tell myself that if I keep myself fit, I can play for 10 more years. I tell myself to keep working hard so that when I get a chance, I would do the best I can. It's about waiting for the next opportunity.
You must have rued missing bowling in the first Test.
Yes, the pitch certainly interested me. It was helping spinners like a few do back home. The top surface had crumbled pretty early in the match.
You were the first-choice spinner in the past, but now it seems to be Kumble.
This is not a difficult situation. If the team has to go in with one spinner right now, it has to be him, because it depends on how well one is bowling in a particular period. Over the last three years, Kumble has taken almost seven-eight wickets in every Test. What I have done in this period is not even a patch on what he has.
What did you think of Virender Sehwag's bowling in the second Test?
He was always good - even at under-19 level, he had the ability to be a good spinner. The one thing I asked him to stick to was to bowl his off-spinners in an area on or outside the off-stump. It's difficult to hit that line. He was keen to know how to bowl a floater.
Does it occur to you that your role in the team has changed in the sense that you are a senior bowler now?
I realise that expectations from me are much more than what they were when I played against Australia in 2001. Now even I myself expect five and not just two-three wickets a match. Also, I try to take the pressure on myself rather than exposing younger players to it.
How do you assess your performance over the last few months?
In Pakistan, I had to bowl on wickets which I’d like to forget. I have never seen such flat tracks in my life, and I wouldn’t like any other bowler to bowl on them. Against England I didn't bowl well in the first Test but came back well in the next two. A few catches were dropped. That's most important, not wickets, because they will come if I bowl well. In ODIs, I have done well in the last eight-nine months.
How has the interaction with Lance Gibbs gone?
He gave me a few tips on gripping the ball to increase the ball revolutions. He has enormously long fingers, but I will try out his suggestions.