'I told these guys I'll get good runs' - Harbhajan
Harbhajan Singh said the events of Sydney had no impact on his performance here, admitting he had tried to shut out matters that weren't in his control. The appeal against the three-match ban imposed on him is just a few days away but Harbhajan said he had done his best to concentrate on the job at hand.
"It wasn't bothering me," he said when asked about the tumultuous events in Sydney, one where he was in the centre of the storm. "Whatever has happened is gone. Our board is looking after it and I don't need to worry about it. It's not in my control. I don't need to keep on going there and worrying. We're here to play cricket."
A friendly pat had triggered off the Sydney furore - with Andrew Symonds getting at him for tapping Brett Lee on the back - and Harbhajan admitted he had thought about that when he collided with Stuart Clark early in his innings. The ball raced away to third man for four but Harbhajan, looking back, ran straight into Clark.
"I apologised because I hit him hard," he said. "I was looking back. I felt I hit him hard and said, 'I'm sorry mate, I didn't do it because off anything'. The last time I touched someone, I was in trouble. But luckily nobody came and said ,'Why you're touching our bowlers'."
Ironically he brought up his fifty against Symonds, smashing him wide of mid-off for four, and celebrated by thumping his chest and pointing the bat to the pavilion. "We had a plan to get 400 on the board and I was very happy when we had that partnership," he said. He also made a gesture that suggested he wanted his team-mates to sit down. "Everything worked out the way we wanted. That's what I was showing. I've got a big heart and I've done it. I told these guys I'll get good runs for the team."
Harbhajan has played a big part in India's tail-end resurgence, putting together scores of 63 both in Sydney and here. "We've been working really hard, all the lower-order batsmen. Thanks to Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad and Greg King [the trainer]. They're working on lower-order batting. We've been batting a lot in the nets and back ourselves to play some positive cricket.
"No team likes it when a tail-ender comes to bat," he said of the impact it has on the opposition. "Any team thinks they're going to play a few shots and going to get out. I like to face challenges and it's always nice to get runs for the team. It's great to see the way Nos. 8,9,10 and 11 have batted here. We won in Perth mainly because of the way RP Singh batted with [VVS] Laxman. It's always important for the bowlers to bat well. I think I played a very stupid shot to get out. I could have got another 20-30 runs for myself."
Harbhajan's 107-run partnership with Kumble pushed the score past the 450-mark. "He's a great guy and probably the best captain I've played under after Sourav Ganguly," he said. "What he's done for the team is tremendous. He's a fighter and wants everybody in the team to fight. He's always there for the team. He likes to have that sort of people in the team."
Does he see the pitch breaking up over the next few days? "I think it's a very, very good wicket," he said, "but we have two left-arm seamers bowling from different ends to create some patches. It's started taking some spin. But we have runs on the board to play around with our fields. No batsman likes to see fielders close by. We have a good chance to beat them if we bowl the right lengths and take our catches."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo