June 29, 2001

Harbhajan has overcome problems and succeeded

Harbhajan Singh, the young off-spinner from Jalandhar, a town reputed more for producing bats than cricketers, has prevailed over all odds to become an important cog in the wheel

Harbhajan Singh, the young off-spinner from Jalandhar, a town reputed more for producing bats than cricketers, has prevailed over all odds to become an important cog in the wheel. As a kid he caught the eye of Vikram Rathour, the former Indian opener for his ability to spin the ball. Rathour, the mother hen for all the youngsters of Punjab wasted no time in making it known that Harbhajan had to be viewed with more than passing interest.

Harbhajan Singh's career (though it is in the blossoming stages yet) has been interesting in the sense that he had to make a lot of adjustments in every aspect. It was as though problems had a way of haunting the young Sardar repeatedly. Mind you, it is earth shattering for a youngster to be reported for chucking the moment he gets into the big league. To make matters worse, he was also fined and reprimanded by the ICC referee in his first international series.

After the early setbacks, Harbhajan Singh had to first accept the reality that he had to do something to rectify his action. He went to the NCA in Bangalore where he had the opportunity to pick invaluable points from the former greats, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan. But he was in a very difficult phase of his career and his reactions in some situations did not endear him to many. Eventually he had to face the ignominy of getting thrown out of the NCA on disciplinary grounds.

The ouster from the NCA was yet another blow to this youngster and he was left now with the task of mastering his emotions as well. Harbhajan was left with the task of starting from scratch while his spin twin Sarandeep Singh moved on to play for the country. During the home series against Zimbabwe, many felt that Harbhajan would find it difficult to re-surface. Fortunately for him, the team management had a lot of faith in his cricketing abilities and he was picked against Australia. It will be pointless to reiterate his deeds in that series. What was remarkable about his bowling during that series was the control he had with his line even though he did not turn the ball a long way. This was bound to happen, as he had to ensure that no aspersions were cast again about his action. Today he has satisfied one and all with regard to his bowling action and in the absence of Kumble, he has the responsibility of winning matches for the country.

In retrospect Harbhajan can look back with pride on the way he has fought every battle manfully and has shown enormous mental strength. With Tendulkar constantly reminding him of his duties and responsibilities, Harbhajan will be made to keep his head firmly on his shoulders. I am not being suggestive here but one can't get a better mentor than Tendulkar when it comes to handling success. Even if Harbhajan absorbs half of Tendulkar's commitment, one can rest assured that Harbhajan will be serving the nation's cause for a fair period of time.