Harbhajan Singh

'If the critics think I could have taken four, I feel I could have taken six'

The latest entrant to the 400-club aims for another 200, beats himself up for his bad spells, and talks about how he's better when he's calm and composed

Interview by Sriram Veera

July 12, 2011

Comments: 61 | Text size: A | A

Harbhajan Singh bowls another fruitless delivery, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Centurion, 3rd day, December 18, 2010
"Sometimes I just get over-excited. I see the pitch and I think I have to get this wicket. When I am just looking to bowl, most of the time I get it right" © AFP

How big is getting 400 wickets for you?
Four hundred is a lot. When I was young, I remember Kapil Dev getting it, and it was quite a big thing. An Indian had taken it. I feel honoured and proud that God has given me a chance to reach 400 wickets. It's a big thing for me, I don't know about others.

Do you think you can end up with 600?
That's where I should be. If I don't reach there I will be disappointed. It will be my fault if I don't reach 600. It will depend on how badly I want to get there. Anil Kumble, Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan are way better bowlers than me, and I would like to get close to them. I have nothing to lose. I have everything to gain from here on. I want to win games on my own.

It seems sometimes that you are two different bowlers. When you are bowling well, you are so good. Then, on days you slip to the middle and leg line - quick, defensive. What do you have to say about that criticism?
If the criticism is that "One day he does well, the second day he doesn't, third he does well" then fine. But without any reason, just because I didn't take any wickets today, "chalo isko uda do [let's slam him]"… If I take a wicket - be it off a full-toss - then "well bowled". That's not fair.

Yes, with me there have been days when I bowl well [but] I don't take wickets. When I have bowled bad - as you say when I bowl leg and middle and take a wicket at backward short-leg - as a cricketer you know, it isn't satisfying. I don't mind criticism if it's fair - that I didn't bowl a good line.

I do try a lot of things. I want to bowl outside off, bowl from close to the stumps, from round the stumps. I keep changing my seam position, [try] small things - I don't know whether you guys are able to pick it from there. There are lots of times these small things work. The revolutions on the ball are different, the amount of turn is different. My effort is to bowl to the best of my potential. I am human after all. I will bowl well, I will bowl badly. I must have done something good or I couldn't have lasted 13 years. I am making sure my mistakes reduce.

What about the leg-stump line criticism?
I am disappointed with myself when I do that. For example, in the Jamaica Test, I think I could have taken at least 10 wickets. I am very honest about it. I didn't bowl as well I could have done there. There was nothing much to do but just hit the spot on that wicket. But for two days I just couldn't land the ball where I wanted. I tried my best, but it didn't happen. I felt disappointed and hurt.

In Indian conditions the leg-and-middle line seems to make sense sometimes. You have a backward short-leg in place, and there is that bounce and turn…
Let me tell you something. Even if you have a backward short-leg, it doesn't mean that your line should change. If the spin can come from outside off, you want to make the batsman play to mid-off or covers, and not to midwicket or mid-on.

What happens on those days when we see you drift down leg?
Sometimes I just get over-excited. I see the pitch and I think, "I have to get this wicket." When I am just looking to bowl, I am calm and composed, and most of the time I get it right. The ball lands where I want it to. When I see a pitch like Jamaica, I get excited. So the focus shifts from basic things. I start thinking [of doing] magic stuff. I will pitch it here and get it to do this. I will bowl this ball. And in trying to do all that you end up trying so hard, you lose it.

So you bowl a few overs like that. Can't you then change?
By then sometimes it gets too late. You are bowling like that and the batsman starts getting used to you, the pitch, the bounce. The impact that you have early is different from when he is playing the 30th or 35th ball. Of course you try to change, and you do change, but I am saying sometimes the effectiveness gets lost because of that initial bad spell.

When you have had two bad spells, does the pressure get to you and affect your future spells?
Of course. I put myself under pressure. Every bowler - if you talk to Shane Warne - wants to bowl a magic ball and get people out. Try to make the guy play a flick and catch him at slip. You start thinking: the pitch has so much, so why is nothing happening for me? You look to bowl fast, cross-seam, and not give him time. Sometimes that results in a couple of boundaries. That builds up pressure on you. I think what I have to do is make sure I keep things simple. When I have done that, things have worked for me.

What does "keeping things simple" mean to you? What's your ideal line and pace?
I don't rely on pace. See, every bowler is different. Lots of people say I bowl very fast and [Erapalli] Prasanna used to bowl slow. Obviously he was a great bowler in his era, but my bowling is different. My pace is different. I know my strength.

It all depends on the wicket. You can't have a set format. I will give you an example. In South Africa - in the first Test in Centurion - they normally say an offspinner should make the batsman cover-drive. I tried it whole day: I tried to make them drive through the covers and kept getting hit through there for fours. And many times I could see Jacques Kallis' two stumps because he was shuffling towards off to sweep me. He got 200. [Hashim] Amla also kept cover-driving me. Later I was thinking that the balls were good. It's not as if I was cut or pulled. Yet they were driving and sweeping me easily. I spoke to Ravi Shastri and he said, "Your first-day bowling will have to depend on the pitches. In India, or in Centurion, wherever there is no turn but good bounce, a lot of these good players will try to play on the up, with the bounce, and against the turn." So I was getting hit.

"When I was so young my action came in to doubt. I had to go abroad and clear it. Those days I didn't even speak proper English. I couldn't talk at all with anyone. Then I was thrown out of the NCA. Then my father died, which was my lowest phase. Then that Sreesanth incident. I thought my cricket will be over after that"

In the next game I changed my line. I bowled very straight. I made them play every ball. If he misses the sweep I will get him lbw. So I didn't bowl outside off. If he plays across, there's a chance of a slip catch or a bat-pad catch.

Shastri told me that on days and pitches like that you don't want the batsman to drive to cover. You want him to play to mid-off or towards you. You can push mid-off wider and make him drive between you and the mid-off on a first-day wicket. If it's spinning then you, of course, try to bowl wider outside off. I tried that and it worked. Amla got out trying to sweep in Durban and in Cape Town. On a given day, on given conditions, you have to change your line and length according to the batsman. If Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are batting together, the ball that is good for Dravid is not good for Laxman. You have to keep thinking. Any time you are bowling you are trying to make sure the ball is hitting the stumps. I try to do that. Most days it happens. Some days it doesn't. Wickets have a way of coming in a bunch for me. Four hundred wickets is not a fluke. Utne bhi gaye ghuzre hote toh ghar pey baithe rehte [If I was so ordinary, I would be sitting at home].

In the New Zealand tour in 2009, you seemed to be at your best. The turn, the drift, the bounce...
I think I bowled my best there. We were playing three seamers and one spinner. Your role demands that your seamers remain fresh and you bowl a tight line. Don't try and do lots of different things. Make sure things are under control.

There wasn't much in the pitch, and I bowled well. On that tour I was consistently landing the ball in the spot. I was just doing normal things. There is bounce in overseas wickets. I bowled the best because I was calm and I knew my role.

I think I am a strike bowler - even in New Zealand. I want to take wickets and not put pressure on Zaheer [Khan]. My job is to take wickets, but at the same time I was very calm and composed and aware of my role in New Zealand. I was in good rhythm.

I had played a lot of Test cricket before that series. Here I have come on the back of lots of ODIs and Twenty20s. Your body takes time to adjust from one format to the other. Especially six months of one-day cricket, you can take time to adjust. This is not an excuse, but it does take time to bowl slower in the air and make the batsmen play in a different channel.

In ODIs sometimes you want him to play with the turn. In Tests you want him to play against the turn. The channels are different. It takes time.

You say you did well because you were calm. But sometimes the perception is that if you put Harbhajan in a fight, you get the best out of him. You are aggressive, emotional, and things start to happen.
Yeah, people say that, and it has worked for me. When I am in a contest, it gets the best out of me. I respond well to challenges. I do get pumped up. But in New Zealand there was nothing like that. They are very quiet out there. So which is the best mood I should be in? I think the calm, composed mood I was in in New Zealand is the best. I was enjoying the company of my team-mates. It's not that I am not now, but when you are playing good, you enjoy everything. But obviously when you put me in a ring for a fight, I am for it. You will see a different Harbhajan that day, and I hope that doesn't change. But, yes, I want to be calm and composed going forward.

How much can you plan in these days of computer footage and studying the opposition? How much do you think on your feet?
I am not a great fan of computers. I do watch videos and analyse which batsman is playing how. Batsmen can play different shots on different days. A batsman may not play cover drives well, but if he connects with two such shots, he starts playing the drive well on that day. I go in with a plan that I should get my rhythm first, and not go for the kill straightaway. I have to bring in that zone. Bowl four overs to get into the groove. I need to set up my pace, see how the track is playing, and then after five overs, after I am settled, I decide this is the field to set, this is the line to bowl.

A lot of people said [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul has been getting out to offspinners in his last six innings. But it's not that he will get out to an offie in the next six too. I go with an open mind. I am there to bowl well.

Then you keep adapting within the game. This batsman is looking to sweep, this guy is coming forward, this guy is looking to play to the on side. I have learnt this from Anil bhai. I have not seen him come and straightaway say he needs a short leg. Same with Warne. He told me, "I see if I can keep a man in the deep for, say, someone like Sehwag, then I keep one right away. I drop my midwicket or mid-off back. Then if I bowl four good overs, I start getting the field in." I have learnt from these guys and also from my own experience.

You use a lot of over-spin and get bounce. Many offspinners use side spin more.
It has been natural with me. I always had the bounce; it was the biggest thing I had. I get a lot of bat-and-pad gap. I try to stick to that. The rest are add-ons. My action is completely natural. This is the way I bowled from the first day. My muscles have trained that way. I don't get tired through my action.

Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh have a word, Mohali, October 16, 2008
"Earlier the responsibility was shared between Kumble and me. Now it's my responsibility as the senior bowler to take most of the pressure" © AFP

In the press conference the other day, you said you had more downs than ups. Do you really think that?
I wasn't talking about wickets and such. I was talking more about life. In cricket too I have been dropped, not taken wickets, not performed over a couple of months, in a few series… Obviously those are low phases, but I was talking more about my life. When I was so young my action came into doubt. I had to go abroad and clear it. Those days I didn't even speak proper English. I had to go to England. I had no clue what to do. I couldn't talk at all with anyone. That was a low phase. Then when I was thrown out of the National Cricket Academy, that was a down phase. Then my father died, which was my lowest phase. Then that Sreesanth incident. I thought my cricket will be over after that, because just then the whole Australia [Symonds] thing had happened.

Yes, as a cricketer I have risen a lot. I didn't think I will reach here. And I have the time to rise further.

Are you an emotional person?
I am very emotional. It took me many years to recover from the death of my father. Even when I was playing cricket, I wasn't happy. I would just sit and cry. I was very young. He was too young; he shouldn't have gone. Cricket is all right. We all play sport. Good and bad days come. You feel bad when you are not doing well, but you can always come back. But when things go bad in life, you feel… that Sreesanth incident, I should not have done what I did.

Did you have to sit and think about how you were going to handle sharing a dressing room with Andrew Symonds?
We didn't talk about it at all. That was finished in Sydney, both for him and for me. And he actually mentioned it, saying it was over right there in Sydney and not to worry about what people were writing or saying on TV. For me it was over then and there.

For those who like you, you are like a loveable rascal. For those who don't, it's arrogance and bad character. How do you handle that?
I don't think many people know me. I come across as "akhadu" [arrogant], but when they talk to me, they tell me I am not like how they thought I would be. Even lots of journalists think I am arrogant, but people close to me know the real me. I am a jolly person.

It's important what people close to me think. They know what I am. I don't live for the whole world. I live for the people who are close to me. I can't please everyone. I don't wish bad for anyone. My conscience is clear.

You used to react a lot earlier on. You seem to be more relaxed these days.
I used to react a lot before [laughs]. If someone said something [to me] I'd react. [Now I understand] they have their opinion and they are doing their job. I am learning to handle it better. In our profession there is lot of scrutiny. It's not just a sport in India. It's way bigger than that. Every day we have an exam. It's big pressure, not just for me but for everyone.

A guy like him [pointing at Virat Kohli, who was briefly in the room during the interview] is just 21-22, but the pressure he is going through by not scoring in a few innings is huge. The next time he goes to bat, in the back of his mind there will be the things people said. He will be thinking, "They are saying, Virat Kohli is not a Test player." Slowly we all learn to adjust. Isn't there a song, "Kuch toh log kehenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna" ["People will criticise, that's what they do"]?

When people close to me get annoyed with me, it affects me. It still does. I say something and I regret it. I am very emotional. I play hard in cricket, but when it gets to my life and friends it affects me. I am a human being. I have feelings.

It's like your critics expect greatness from you and they're disappointed that you are letting them down.
Yeah. It's nice for them to think that way. I also expect big things from me. I go out and give it my best shot. When I come back to my room, I have to look at the mirror and be honest with myself. Everyone wants to do better. Hopefully when I retire, those people will say I justified my talent. That I was not doing as much as I could have done in that period of time but I went on to make the most of my talent. Those sorts of people actually inspire you to do well.

How do you separate your expectations from what others expect of you?
When you are doing it for yourself, you are doing it for everyone. You do well for your country. I don't think expectations burden me when I am on the field. I just try to focus on what I am doing. If I start thinking of all those things, I can't do what I should do at that particular time. At the end of the day you go out and try your best. That's what I have been doing for the last 13 years. If you ask Sachin Tendulkar, he will tell you the same thing: you can only do your best.

What was the impact of Kumble's retirement on you? How long did it take for you to adjust to his absence?
I want to clear one thing. After that 2001 series against Australia, I never thought I want to be the second spinner in the team. I never felt I was the fourth bowler and that it my role was to get two wickets and go. I wanted to win games. I wanted to take five wickets. When Anil bhai was there, he was a very competitive cricketer. He wanted to take wickets. I also wanted to take wickets. It's not competition, per se. He is a bigger bowler. He is a legend. But I wanted to do well too. When he left there was added responsibility on me. There is no bowler like Kumble at the other end. These guys are good but they will take time to get a feel of international cricket. So I took more responsibility. My role has become bigger. I have to ensure the young guys don't feel pressure. I have to bowl the crucial overs. Earlier the responsibility was shared between Kumble and me. Now it's my responsibility as the senior bowler to take the burden and most of the pressure.

"When I bowl normal offspin my seam is clear and easy to pick. And when I bowl my doosras the seam is scrambled and so it became easier to pick. So I started to bowl offbreaks with the scrambled seam"

Do you doubt yourself?
I don't doubt myself. People do. They ask if I am good enough. I know I am good enough, and that's why I have taken 400 wickets. Lots of people talk about other greats, but very few people have taken 400 Test wickets. It's not a small thing. I am a very confident guy, and not just about cricket. I do what I feel is right. It works for me. I never think my bowling deteriorated. If you doubt yourself, sit at home and watch cricket on TV.

What are the things you are developing in your bowling?
I am working on my angles: to bowl closer to the stumps, bowl wider. A lot of these guys are bowling new and different balls. When [Ajantha] Mendis came, it was different, but then batsmen adjusted to him. I don't want to complicate myself.

Warne used to bowl two balls - legbreaks and the flipper. And he used to vary so much within those, with his angles, pace and trajectory. His googly wasn't great. Anil bhai always was about tight lines. Murali was offspin and doosra.

If you master your stock deliveries and the variations that you want, then that's the best. It's nice to bowl different kinds of balls, but you have to make sure you don't forget what you know. Bowling different kinds of balls is not my strength. And to practise them you need to allot special time. You can't try them in a match. If we have 600 runs on board, then I can try sliders, back-spinners. I have tried them, in fact. They mostly went for boundaries!

You have not been bowling doosras much these days; you are using topspinners more. Why?
I bowl doosras too, but the batsmen have started to read it better. If you overuse it, it can get ineffective. You set up the batsman with offbreaks and then try to slip one in. I will increase it a bit more now that you have brought it to my attention.

You also come round the stumps more often these days.
Earlier it used to be considered negative bowling. Now they get you more lbws. That round-the-stumps angle is very good, especially when the ball is turning. You just to have to spin it a bit.

When bowling over the wicket, you have to pitch it wider, because you have to turn it within the line of stumps and not down leg. From round the wicket, the batsman has to play across his body, and that line gets really dangerous. Then I can slip in a topspinner so it can go off the edge to silly point or slip. I have really worked hard on that angle.

You use the scrambled seam a lot.
Yeah. If it lands on the shiny side, it skids on faster. If it lands on the rough, it spins more. As a bowler, when you don't know where it's going to land, how can the batsman know? This is with respect to the scrambled seam. With a normal grip, with the seam pointing across, you know the ball is going to land only partly on seam. When you are bowling with a scrambled seam you don't know where it will land. If it lands on the seam it kicks up. If it lands on the shiny side, it skids. I have started to use it a lot more.

When I bowl normal offspin my seam is clear and easy to pick. And when I bowl my doosras the seam is scrambled, and so it became easier to pick. So I started to bowl offbreaks with the scrambled seam. Some batsmen just see the revolutions of the ball. Those who pick it from the hand play it better. With the cross seam it's not clear if it will be an offbreak or go straight.

How much do you analyse your bowling?
I am my worst critic. That's why it doesn't matter to me what other people think. They feel I am arrogant, but it's just that I am my harshest critic. If they think I could have taken four wickets, I feel I could have taken six. I still can't get over that Jamaica Test. I should have taken 10 on that track. How did I mess that up? The amount critics blast me is nothing compared to how much I blast myself once back in the room. But I don't carry it to the next day. I don't want to repeat my mistake. I want to start the day fresh.

Harbhajan Singh made his third 50-plus score of the series, India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 3rd day, November 14, 2010
"I am trying to reduce my mistakes in the middle. I have scored runs only when I haven't gone out and started playing my strokes straight away" © AFP

Who are the cricketers you speak to? So many former players criticise you. Who do you turn to?
Sunny bhai [Gavaskar], Kapil paaji [Dev], Anil bhai, of course. Murali, who is a gem of a person. He always tells me what I should be doing. Warne is there to help you. He will talk to you. Saqlain Mushtaq is a very dear friend. Mushy bhai [Mushtaq Ahmed] and Wasim bhai [Akram].

Do you feel you are now the best spinner in the world?
I don't know. [Graeme] Swann is doing a fantastic job for England. [Daniel] Vettori is doing it for his team. Saeed Ajmal is a brilliant brilliant bowler too

How would you describe your game over the last six months?
I think I have bowled well, but I haven't got the results to show for it. I haven't got a big number of wickets. There were a few catches which went down. But that's part of the game. Some days great catches will be taken off your bowling and certain days simple chances will be dropped. The South African series was very satisfying for me. I was really happy I bowled well in South Africa. I think I should have taken more wickets in West Indies. I think I have bowled well here, except for the first Test. In patches I think I bowled okay in Jamaica too, but not up to my best.

You look like a proper batsman these days.
It's very important to think like a batsman when you are out there. When I bowl, no one gifts me their wickets. Then why play stupid shots, get out, come back into the dressing room and think, "I should have spent more time in there"? When you are in the middle, make the most of it. Don't throw your wicket away. If you get a good delivery then it's fine. I am trying to reduce my mistakes in the middle. I have scored runs only when I haven't gone out and started playing my strokes straight away.

Previously I used to go and swing my bat, hit a few boundaries and the dressing room would applaud wildly. But then I'd get out for 20. I still play my shots, but I am more judicious in my approach. Hitting sixes is not too difficult. It's taking singles that is tough. I think in that sense, the century against New Zealand really helped me a lot. Until you do something for the first time, you don't know what it is worth.

How would you describe yourself: an emotional person, a fighter or a lovable rascal?
I come from a land which has produced a lot of warriors. I am a warrior. I will put myself against anyone and I will give my best for all my friends, my team-mates, my country and myself. These guys come first, and for them I am ready to do anything. I am emotional and I am aggressive and at the same time. I am a wise thinker, though not many people think I am one [laughs].

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by pr3m on (July 14, 2011, 16:16 GMT)

Brilliant interview; we need more of these in cricket. Good, tough questions, you didn't back down which was nice to see, and probably put some sense into him regarding doosras! Congratulations, and keep it up.

Posted by SamRoy on (July 14, 2011, 3:46 GMT)

And I will be disappointed if he plays that long for India without rediscovering the bowler he was five years back. It is time for him to take a break from international cricket and go back to basics. There are probably 10 better spinners in international cricket currently compared to him (Swann, Ajmal, Vettori, Bishoo are much better than him) and it shouldn't be so given his original talent

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 2:44 GMT)

he is clearly not enjoying his bowling, he looks 10 times more pumped up while batting, and for this its the dumb indian audience to blame,they never appreciate the bowlers, they can only understand fours and sixes, doesnt really get the thrill that bowling can create, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan singh are the victims of this attitude of indian people, how would harbhajan feel when a stadiums lights up when virat kohli arrives and doesnt even react when he comes on to bowl, still dont get your ignorance?, how about this, who are the 3 greatest indian cricketers - Sachin, Gavaskar, Kapil,99% of India will say these 3 names, do anyone remember about Anil Kumble, he is as great as Sachin if not greater, he carried the bowling attack on his shoulders almost his whole career, Learn to appreciate your bowlers that is how you will dominate world cricket.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2011, 0:04 GMT)

Great Interview on the internal wiring of Bhajji!

Posted by   on (July 13, 2011, 19:48 GMT)

Bhaji should get the milestone.

Posted by Nampally on (July 13, 2011, 19:35 GMT)

Harbhajan was a great off spinner once but his bowling has become too predictable His performance over the past 12 months in the test matches proves it. He may have managed to crawl up to 400 wickets but from now on it will be an uphill task for him to take wickets. His leg stump line is way off to get wickets. He might not be able to control runs either with his leg stump line. He needs to have a plan of action against each batsman he faces and he should stick to that plan.This plan should address his line (off & middle), length, direction and his field placing. Without a concerted effort to these fundamentals, Harbhajan will find it increasingly difficult to guarantee his place as an off spinner in tests. Although he advanced tremendously as a batsman, his place in the team is as a bowler. If he cannot get wickets, he will be Out of the XI. His dream of 600 wickets will remain just that, without an action Plan.That is honest truth whether Bhaiji likes it or not..

Posted by   on (July 13, 2011, 6:21 GMT)

Indeed very shocking to know that the Indian reserves don't have someone to replace harbhajan who is more of a container, an odi bowler and in no opinion a test match bowler anymore. As far his batting goes he has kind of delivered but thats not the role he has to play in the team. Personal advice bhajji if you reading this: Ask the selectors for a rest. Go back to domestic cricket and leave all forms of other cricket for at least 6 months even a county season would do you wonders. Reinvent yourself because I can't tolerate your bowling anymore atleast in TEST cricket when you are unable to dislodge even grade 4, grade 5 tail enders. It'll be better off you take a break and amit mishra be given his due and fyi even he can bat and bat pretty well.

Posted by landl47 on (July 13, 2011, 4:01 GMT)

I think Harbhajan is going to struggle in England. He won't find a lot of spin in the pitches and he's never been a master of flight. His main problem is that when it doesn't go well for him he gets down on himself and bowls worse. His role in England (just as Swann's is in England and Australia) is to keep it tight and allow the seam bowlers to keep fresh. Any wickets he takes will be a bonus. The trouble is, that's not how Harbhajan bowls and he'll start dishing up loose stuff. England are much too good a side to let opportunites like that pass. My prediction: he'll take about 10 wickets at an average of close to 50.

Posted by cricket_fan_1 on (July 13, 2011, 2:56 GMT)

Bhajji needs to leave ODI cricket for Ashwin and concentrate on Tests if he really wants to reach the 600 mark respectfully.

Posted by Baria00 on (July 12, 2011, 22:17 GMT)

bhajji has a great character..his bowling is in decline, its time he takes rest form ODI. ashwin and mishra r not consistent to be in test squad..bhajji's batting also better than all three reserve spinners..indian fast bowling has produced some results and bhajji has managed to plug runs on the other end.. we may not value that but team management surely does..can he reach 600 , time will tell...i would have him on my team any day against any team..well done bhajji

Posted by CandidIndian on (July 12, 2011, 20:37 GMT)

Harbhajan is not consistent in tests and that is the truth.But the fact that he has saved India so many times has cemented his place in the team.He is into the Indian team due to his tough character more than due to his talent,he did well with bat in that infamous test in Sydney also when India were 15-5 against NZ and that ODI against Pak in Asia cup.His great performance with ball has come unfortunately in only two matches recently, that is against SA in Durban and the recent world cup Semifinal against Pak,and those two were very important matches for India, the point is due to all these things the fact remains hidden ,that Bhajji is not so consistent as he should be with all this experience.I remember even Kumble getting dropped for an year or so since he was out of form,but Bhajji is getting away.He needs to improve otherwise he will be remembered as very useful team player but not a legend certainly.

Posted by Raj12345 on (July 12, 2011, 20:19 GMT)

No one can't deny how much your contribution to Indian cricket. We respect that. But if your current form continues and you may be taking 600 wicket after 200 tests. Please retire from Test cricket. Otherwise, come up with old Bhajji.

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 20:11 GMT)

I Still think Harbhajan should be dropped...Mishra would have done better in the second and third test matches

Posted by maddy20 on (July 12, 2011, 19:58 GMT)

Give the guy a break fellas'. He is a decent off-spinner and a good lower order bat with two centuries and several 50's to his name. He can only get better with time!

Posted by ToTellUTheTruth on (July 12, 2011, 19:36 GMT)

Enough with this fake honesty bs. He knows he is not worth a place in the team. Drop him and make him play domestic cricket. There is no drift, no turn and the bounce is wayward. Can't believe he messed up so badly on those turning and bouncing tracks starting witht the 1st T20 game. If he can't get wickets on those wickets against a 3rd class opposition, then why is he there? This was the series he should have gotten at least 25 wickets (as the pitches proved) and he fluffed it. No more chances and no more living in the past. Time to blood new kids. Let them suffer and learn at international level than this has been.

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 19:19 GMT)

Dude..you have reached this mark of 400 definitely with your hard work and great years of toil but something is definitely wrong with you. Either you think too great of yourself or you think the batsmen at the other end are too foolish to give it away. You definitely were a prodigy when you hit the international circuit, but lemme tell you man if you think you can achieve the same amount of success as you did in your early years by bowling line and length and not spinning the ball then you are mistaken. Line and length is the art kumble mastered when he was young, he never tried to be someone nor did the other spinners in the 400+ group. But when i see you bowling around the wicket aka murali and bowling flatter trajectories aka kumble..i seriously get the impression that you hungry for just fame and not the game which you play. Thats just my viewpoint and no offense you have a lot of wickets to you name but well i personally feel you don't deserve a chance in the playing XI..:)

Posted by US_Indian on (July 12, 2011, 19:03 GMT)

It is good to dream and have a goal but 600 is not for you based on your current performance, you got to have the attitude and confidence of Murli who can say that he will retire in this match and also get his required 8 wickets that too against the best players of spin and prove it with results not just loud mouthing. Be content with what you have got , u never had or u dont have the mind or silent aggression like the three musketeers-Legends, namely Murli, Warne, Kumble. Even 400 is a great achievement plus 13 years of playing and 2 hundreds as a batsman, fair share of your success. Thank God and your country for providing this opportunity and success. If you can perform continue otherwise quit on a high note so that you are remembered for being sportman but not cursed for blocking some one's prgoress.

Posted by sudhir98 on (July 12, 2011, 18:51 GMT)

We should cherish these players while they last. Everyone talks about dravid, laxman,srt retiring and forget to enjoy the cricket they are playing now. Criticising harbajan is ok but there is no better spinner in India who can do the job he is doing. So, let him play and let us enjoy.

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 18:32 GMT)

Harbajan is a good bowler. he did bowled good spells when he was with kumble. but now he is not so much into it. he lacks the determination to take wickets. In west indies, he could break a partnership. i think its high time for India to look out for better bowlers in domestics. Bye bye bajji.

Posted by Gocool87 on (July 12, 2011, 17:25 GMT)

Honest interview. Best of luck bhajji. Thanks veera

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 16:55 GMT)

excellent questions by the interviewer Veera. it wasnt a normal Q&A.

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 16:31 GMT)

singh is king.... he never quits

Posted by chmkrish on (July 12, 2011, 15:23 GMT)

go bhaji goo 600 is there for the taking if u skip 20-20 matches.i feel ur role in taking india to no.1 position along with zaheer khan.we all support u for ever.

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 14:45 GMT)

WOW...congrats CRICINFO...a really straight to the point interview....some really harsh and blunt questions.....also congrats to bhajji for his quotes....well done

Posted by Valavan on (July 12, 2011, 14:44 GMT)

i will be disappointed to see harbhajan playing that long, or it can be a shame on BCCI.

Posted by Angad11 on (July 12, 2011, 14:29 GMT)

No doubt Bhajji is a great bowler and will be remember as one of the greats of Indian Cricket. But i still believe he has been playing too much cricket. He needs a break, get back in better shape and more refreshed. Which also give opportunities for someone like Ashwin to make a mark more often in Intl Cricket. I really feel for Ashwin, i think he is really being wasted. Somehow during this interview, i get the feeling that Bhajji is feeling more and more insecure now. Good Luck for the England series. Thanks Veera for bringing the doosra to his attention, hopefully he uses it more often now.

Posted by ashlatchem on (July 12, 2011, 14:09 GMT)

I am a NZ and I think Bhajji has really matured and grown over the last few years and I expect him to do really well for India for 45 more years. (+ he can bat pretty decently now too which is just unfair considering the batting strength India already have lol.) Hopefully he & Swann will both be in good nick later in the year and we can get a close look at 2 world class spinners!! Man this series is gonna be so good! Great interview now bring on Eng vs Ind!!! @Stark62 - How many wickets have you taken?

Posted by batnpad on (July 12, 2011, 14:00 GMT)

Its high time harbhajan is dropped. The guy plays all three formats + IPL and is an automatic selection. He has forgotten how to bowl in test matches and made the Windies trip when the rest of the seniors(exl. Raina) took a break. The reason because Ashwin or Mishra would snatch the spot. So after 13 years his spot is in danger recently and there was none to challenge him after Kumble which is the reason he lasted that long. Looks like he is another one who relies on the stats to defend himself after Ganguly. I also don't know what the bowling coach is doing when a bowler is bowling rubbish. Doesn't he talk to him during breaks so he quickly adjusts. The England series shouild be curtains for many.

Posted by hanskishore on (July 12, 2011, 13:38 GMT)

It took 13 years to get to 400, if he wants to get another 200 he needs to sit in the team for atleast another 6 years... I don't think he'll be able to get to that landmark... with all the new crop of spinners waiting out there..

Posted by mittalanuj on (July 12, 2011, 13:12 GMT)

You should consider yourself lucky that you got so many chances to play for India....

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 13:04 GMT)

all @ just remember in 2001 his spin bowling makes the aussies down, not only i that series almost all the matches he played. Now he developed his batting skills and became a all-rounder :) there are lot of examples for his all rounder performance. As a indian pls stop crutise him.. Sure bhajji's will reach 600wickets.. there should no doubt on it

Posted by CricketFreud on (July 12, 2011, 13:02 GMT)

thoughtful and sane questions.. great job veera...

Posted by Sukumar_Kantri on (July 12, 2011, 12:51 GMT)

Those who call Bhajji as mediocre bowler. Murali had avg of 32 against India ( career avg - 22). Warne 43( Career avg -25) and ppl rate these 2 as best spinners, Warne had 195 wkts vs england in 36 matches( out of 708 in 145). Murali had 400 wickets in 55 matches against Bangla,NZ,ZIM,Eng,WI. Both faltered against India. Those who talk about home advantage of Bhajji- Murali had 500 wkts in 63 matches at home( 800 in 133 overall). Every one has +ves and -ves. Bhajji's increased average is largely due to faster scoring rates in recent past and batsmen friendly flat tracks.

Posted by anurag4u10 on (July 12, 2011, 12:49 GMT)

harbhajan singh has always been a true fighter. 400 wkts is just a milestone to convey his success story. i agree he is nt dat lethal 4 d past 1 year bt has still mangd to mark his presence even in in this phase . he along wd laxman helped in securin draw agnst nz wen ind were 15/5 and he went on to make his maiden 100 fllwd by anther 100 in d nxt mtch. in d wi tour he helpd ind get a respectable score in d frst test. frm 2010 he has tkn 60 wkts 4m 17 tests that include 6 4 fors which is nt that bad cnsiderin his poor form. i knw he will hav a bettr tour in eng and will prove dat he is bettr than swann. good luck 4 d rest of ur career . i am sure u will tk 600 wkts

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 12:44 GMT)

Oye bhajji..what you have (400 wickets) is already more than enough, Indian cricket was at a different stage all together at the point when you came in,we have a lot of fresh talented lot waiting for their turn now, so move on with all you have and step down for the boys to do their part for your performance is as good as nothing now.

Posted by Sukumar_Kantri on (July 12, 2011, 12:43 GMT)

To people who compare Bhajji with other spinners who had played in an era where scoring 3 runs per over in tests is a great task and had bowler friendly wickets and many top test teams are weak against spinners is not at all fair. Comparing Don Bradman with Sunny and both these with Sachin is fair? Same way comparing Bhajji with Spinners who got most of thier wickets before 2006 is not fair. At present Bhajji is one of the finest spinners in test cricket or else playing for 96 matches would not been possible. Ajantha Mendis was rated the best for his first 10 matches and after that what happened to him? He got back into the team after Murali retired and sometimes team opted for Herath ahead of him. People say Swann is best spinner, he played just 30-40 matches and its of great doubt if he can sustain it till his 100th match. Bhajji has 7-8 years of cricket left in him and can easily reach 700 wicket mark.

Posted by sudhindranath on (July 12, 2011, 12:37 GMT)

Harbhajan's bowling seems to lack the sting these days. Of late, he is more into containing batsmen (as if in ODIs) than taking wickets. But still there is a very good chance that he can get to 500.

If he can do as well in the next 7 years as the last 7 years, then he can reach 600 wickets. But I think that is unlikely as someone more capable of taking wickets could replace him long before that.

Posted by Quazar on (July 12, 2011, 12:36 GMT)

@Stark62... your comment says more about the lack of class in you than in anyone else. If he manages to reach 600, he will have earned it, and will deserve it.

Posted by Quazar on (July 12, 2011, 12:33 GMT)

"I come from a land which has produced a lot of warriors. I am a warrior. I will put myself against anyone." Well said, Harbhajan, and very true! Brilliant interview, Veera!

Posted by Stark62 on (July 12, 2011, 10:56 GMT)

Nah, I'll be disappointed if you reach that landmark!

Why? Because your an average bowler and it would be insulting to past legends, who were far superior.

Posted by Ronsars on (July 12, 2011, 9:25 GMT)

Nice interview...Only Veera could have done justice to interviewing one of India's finest spinner

Posted by Kothandaram on (July 12, 2011, 9:09 GMT)

good interview. harbhajan deserves the credit he is getting. he has done a very good job for india over the years. always gives his best. his batting has come along well. he can be an important member of the Indian team for a few more years to come...

Posted by chamila_sl on (July 12, 2011, 8:45 GMT)

may be play more matches with minnows.... might get to 500... 600 ? no way.

Posted by samya1980 on (July 12, 2011, 8:32 GMT)

some achievements go unnoticed, they just take place, and on a fine morning you relize what has happened, we, sitting infront of tv, cant understand how much effort one needs to put in. we just take it for granted. we need to compare others proffessions with our own, others achievements with our own achievements(if any), then only we can understand what it takes to be a successfull...hmmm sounds quite philosophycal..but beleive me am not goutam buddha or anything..this is the ultimate truthsome achievements go unnoticed, they just take place, and on a fine morning you relize what has happened, we, sitting infront of tv, cant understand how much effort one needs to put in. we just take it for granted. we need to compare others proffessions with our own, others achievements with our own achievements(if any), then only we can understand what it takes to be a successfull...hmmm sounds quite philosophycal..but beleive me am not goutam buddha or anything..this is the ultimate truth

Posted by Vijay_MatchWinner on (July 12, 2011, 8:30 GMT)

Such a detailed interview. Very nice. The way seniors and legends share the game knowledge is humbling to know :) Go Bhajji, you can do it

Posted by Haleos on (July 12, 2011, 8:10 GMT)

@Swamin - U need to do basic maths course my friend :). 13 years 400 wickets. He iwl surely play anther 7 years. So half of 400 is 200. Total 600.

Posted by Pankaj_INDIA on (July 12, 2011, 7:34 GMT)

and not to forget, he was the one who gave india edge against aussies in their prime. who can forget 2000-01 series, where he made aussie batsmen to dance to his tunes.. he took them on, on and off the field, with lot of guts. he was the first guy who challenged aussies, which of course oz didnt like and started dirty campaign against him, which didnt bother him and actually made him mentally tough and the world class bowler he is today. thank u aussies for that. :)

Posted by Pankaj_INDIA on (July 12, 2011, 7:26 GMT)

Nice interview.. Bhajji can easily reach 600 wickets, if not more. i think it has become fashion these days to just criticise indian team and indians here without any reason. Bhajji will answer his critics soon. his bowling, useful consistent lower order batting, fighting spirit are very valuable to indian cricket. he can easily play for next 6-7 years. and mind you, he has just crossed 30, which makes spinners more lethal in coming years, so we can expect the very best from him. way to go paaji, best current spinner in the world..

Posted by ravi_hari on (July 12, 2011, 7:02 GMT)

I agree with some of you who doubted Bhajji's endurance to finish with 600 wickets. I feel he has about 4 years of cricket left in him and taking 50 wickets each year is a huge task. It is not going to be easy unless you play against the weakest opponents and on spin friendly tracks. At best I feel Bhajji will end at 525, which is no mean achievement. The talk was very open but I feel Bhajji does not do the same on the field. Today there is so much technology, chief coach, bowling coach, etc. who monitor ball-by-ball. Why then he is not correcting himself on field when he is making the mistakes of bowling the wrong line, bowling faster than required, etc. I feel it is the urge to improve which is lacking many-a-time with Bhajji. I also feel he bowls a little too fast for an offie. He should be around 65-75mph and float the ball more to get the spin, bounce and to beat the batsman in the flight. He also uses the crease less that makes him predictable. Give 600 a great try Bhajji! Ravi

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 7:00 GMT)

i don think he will reach this 600 milestone in his career easily by lookin his current performance...............i will b very tough task for him to do.........its not will be a cake walk thing for him to do

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 6:29 GMT)

He wont even reach 500. The fact he managed 400 illustrates how favourable spin is in the sub-continent.

Posted by   on (July 12, 2011, 6:15 GMT)

Well Played Bhajj, at last you have got 400 wickets but i think you have lost penetration in your bowling, Its really pity to see you struggling to get wickets in the last 3-4 year. now you are not poseing problems to batsmen any more but in news always for wrong reasons. Come on Bhajji You still have fire power in you and Team India really needs it badly

Posted by Woody111 on (July 12, 2011, 6:07 GMT)

Excellent interview although every one with Harbhajan is! I never know what to make of this bloke. He seems humble, forthright, arrogant and effusive all at the same time. I guess he's just one of those characters in cricket that will always polarise opinion.

Posted by howizzat on (July 12, 2011, 5:56 GMT)

If you take another 10 years to take those 200wickets then TeamIndia will be a big loser. You yourself must be aware that since last 4 or 5 years your form has gone for a toss both in Tests as well as ODIs. You were a good bowler, you were a match-winner, but not any more now. You must be sadly missing Kumble's companionship. You have shown in these last 4 or 5 years you just cannot lead from front. The number of 5wkt haul, in this period speaks for this. So better correct yourself, stop building castles in air, be practical, hit the form and show that you can lead the way. Prove that you are wothy of that 600+ club. Otherwise perish and leave the space for others.

Posted by mrgupta on (July 12, 2011, 5:46 GMT)

A very frank and honest interview by Bhajji. No matter how much people criticize you, you should have belief in your abilities and should also be aware when you were not at your best. The honest way in which he accepted his bad performance in Jamaica test will really make his fans happy.

Posted by Bapi on (July 12, 2011, 5:44 GMT)

There is no doubt about Bhaji's capability. But he is going through a bad period. What is use of bowling well, if you cant take wickets consistently for such long periods.I think he needs bit of rest. He should take some rest. Play domestic cricket and ready for Australia series. If he won't take rest, then I am sure, after westIndies tour to India, he will be thrown out by selector.

Posted by sramesh_74 on (July 12, 2011, 5:31 GMT)

600??? He is extremely lucky to have reached 400. No bowler has got as many chances as Harbhajan. He was very ordinary in the Windies. But I am sure he will figure in the playing 11 in Eng and Mishra will continue to cool his heels...

Posted by Vishal_07 on (July 12, 2011, 5:25 GMT)

good interview. I have always liked Bhajji's attitude esp the way he took the Aussies back in their heydays both on and off the field. He has his flaws but he is man enough to accept them. Go Bhajji go!

Posted by Swamin on (July 12, 2011, 4:36 GMT)

In 13 years he has taken only 400 wickets. He will be playing for another 4-5 years which means he can take another 100 wickets.India will play around 30 test matches within this period.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (July 12, 2011, 3:59 GMT)

This goes to show what a humble, down-to-earth person Bhajji is. I am proud of him as an Indian cricketer. He's the sort of guy who TRULY represents the ordinary Indian youth. The same goes with Dhoni, Raina, Kohli etc. I hope Bhajji takes more than 600 wickets, he has the talent to do it. His passion for the game and his hunger to play for India are priceless traits. There will always be people who dislike him or question his presence in the team but to me he's one of the best cricketers to play for India. I love you Bhajji.

Posted by gitapat on (July 12, 2011, 3:44 GMT)

Nice interview.I doubt Bhajji will be around long enough to take 600 Test wickets. He is past his prime.Having said that,I expect his Test career to be prolonged by his mentor Dhoni who himself is a passenger in Test Cricket.I only hope that the England Tour shakes up Srikanth and the other selectors from their comfort zone in selecting these two and look for replacements who are better suited to play Test Cricket.

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