‘Would’ve been in Canada if it wasn’t for Sourav Ganguly,’ Harbhajan narrates story of Test comeback
417 Test wickets – the most by an Indian off-spinner, 269 ODI wickets – the second most by an Indian spinner – Harbhajan Singh has been a stalwart of Indian cricket. Winner of two World Cups (2007 T20 World Cup and 2011 ODI World Cup), Harbhajan, last played for India in a T20I in 2016 but his career could well have ended way back in 2000 if it wasn’t for former India captain and current BCCI president Sourav Ganguly.
Former India spinner Harbhajan narrated a heartfelt story of how Ganguly gave him a new lease of life by picking him for the home series against Australia back in 2001.
“I was dropped for a long time. I was also discarded by the NCA before that series, I was very low. If it wasn’t for my captain Sourav Ganguly then I probably would have settled down in Canada like many of my friends. Thank you Sourav bhai for supporting me throughout my career,” said Harbhajan in a quiz show hosted by Ganguly named Dadagiri.
“I didn’t have many options in that series. I had pick up wickets otherwise it would have been my last series for India,” added Harbhajan.
Harbhajan was picked in India’s squad for the three-match series against Australia after leg-spinner Anil Kumble was ruled out because of an injury. The off-spinner made a strong comeback in the first Test in Mumbai, picking up 4 wickets in the first innings. But the real turn around happened in the 2nd Test in Kolkata where Harbhajan became the first Indian to claim a Test hat-trick.
“That was an unbelievable moment for me,” Harbhajan said recalling the hat-trick in the first innings in Kolkata. “The only greater moment I can think of is when we won the 2007 T20 World Cup and then the 2011 ODI World Cup. That moment was something special. The crowd, my teammates celebrated like it was their own hat-trick. For the first time, I saw Rahul Dravid celebrating like that. I will always say that is not my hat-trick, that is India’s hat-trick,” Harbhajan added.
India staged a remarkable turnaround by winning the second Test in Kolkata by 171 runs despite following on. Harbhajan picked up 13 (7/123 & 6/73) wickets in that Test which is also remembered for the mammoth 281-run innings of VVS Laxman.
Harbhajan picked up 32 wickets in that three-match series which India won by 2-1 and never looked back in his Test career.