'I am a better bowler now than I was in 2001'
Harbhajan Singh, who has just become the fastest Indian bowler to reach 200 Test wickets, says he is a better bowler now than when he bowled India to their breathtaking series win over Australia in 2000-01.
Harbhajan, who took 32 wickets in that series, told the Press Trust of India (PTI), "I am more confident now than I was in 2001. Then, I was not sure if I would do it again".
"When I made my debut in 1998-99, I was new and did not believe in myself. I just wanted to take two wickets and remain in the team." By reaching the landmark in his 46th Test, Harbhajan beat Anil Kumble, who needed one more Test to take 200 wickets, in the process also becoming the second youngest Indian to reach the milestone, after Kapil Dev.
But Harbhajan maintained that there was still room for further improvement. "It has all happened so quickly. Now will be the tough period since batsmen around the world know your stuff. If I work hard and remain consistent, the graph will go up," he said.
He also spoke of his partnership with Kumble, insisting that it doesn't receive the recognition and respect it deserves. "You get more respect only when you leave the game. Hopefully, we would have done enough to be spoken about in the same manner as the famous spin quartet of the 70s by the time we leave".
And although his action has now been reported three times, including once earlier in the year, Harbhajan remained typically defiant. "Three times I have given tests and come clean. Sometimes you wonder why you alone were being pulled up, but then it is not in your hands".
"It does disturb you, more so when it happens in the middle of the series. For example on the first day of the Bangalore Test against Pakistan, I was afraid. I could not concentrate fully."
The International Cricket Council (ICC), Harbhajan said, needed to construct clearer, specific guidelines to deal with suspect bowling actions.
"I feel ICC should do so (check a bowler's action) at the beginning of somebody's career. But not after someone has played for 50-60 Tests or picked up 500 wickets. Once you have cleared him, it makes no sense to haul him over and over the coals," he remarked.