Harbhajan Singh opens up on Sourav Ganguly’s influence on his career: ‘He made me a fearless spinner’
Harbhajan Singh has played under numerous captains in his career. The veteran off-spinner first made it into the team when Mohammad Azharuddin was the captain, and became a regular member of the team under Sourav Ganguly’s leadership. Harbhajan was part of the 2007 T20I World Cup-winning team and the 2011-World Cup winning team under MS Dhoni’s captaincy. He was also a part of the 2007 ODI World Cup team under Rahul Dravid’s captaincy that was eliminated in the first round. The bowler has also played under Anil Kumble, Virat Kohli for India and in the Indian Premier League, Harbhajan has played under Rohit Sharma’s leadership for Mumbai Indians.
So which captain has had the most impact on Harbhajan’s career? On being asked the same question, the 39-year-old was quick to pick Ganguly’s name. “For me, Sourav Ganguly’s role was huge. I was once at a stage in life where I didn’t know who was with me and who was not. Because people on my face were saying that they are with me, but many of them were not with me at the time. But at the time, Ganguly backed me when I had zero backing,” Harbhajan said in a chat with former India cricketer Aakasha Chopra on his Youtube show ‘Aakash Vani’.
“The selectors were against me, they told me a lot of things on my face which I cannot disclose. No amount of praise I could give Ganguly, would be sufficient. If he was not the captain at the time, I don’t know if any other captain could have backed me as much,” the bowler said.
“If any player has pushed my career the most, it is Sourav Ganguly. If he was not there, I would not have been able to play 100 Tests,” the 39-year-old added.
Harbhajan further went on to recall how Ganguly helped him grow into a fearless bowler. “Sourav was always there for the bowlers. He would give you the freedom to bowl and he would give you all the things you need as a bowler to build your confidence,” he said.
“If you want 4-5 fielders in front to take catches, he would let you place them. Sometimes, we would ask ourselves if we should push back a fielder, but he would say, ‘no, let him be in front. If we put him in front, we would create chances. If he hits boundaries, let him hit boundaries. We are looking to get him out’. You need captains who would back you. This was his best quality,” Harbhajan said.
“Sometimes he would let me bowl 6-7 overs in the ODIs with fielders in front. I used to think as well ‘ when we have the option to place fielder at back, why are we not doing so’. What he made me do as a bowler, and the situations Sourav made me face several times, helped me become a better bowler, and grow into a fearless spinner. Sourav was unbelievable in that case,” he said.