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Harbhajan Singh

'I'm aiming for 600 Test wickets'

India's leading current bowler answers readers' questions on the toughest batsmen to bowl to, his best Test batting performance, the art of the doosra and more

Nagraj Gollapudi

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Harbhajan Singh takes a commando roll to celebrate removing Ricky Ponting, Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 4th day, January 5, 2008
On a roll: the Turbanator shows off his commando moves, in Sydney, 2008 © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Harbhajan Singh
Teams: India

We have seen you celebrate wickets in many ways. In Australia last year you did a commando roll after taking a wicket. How many celebration routines do you have? What is your favourite? asked Samarth Vaibhav from the UAE
I don't think I ever ran as much as I did after I got [Ricky] Ponting in Sydney [2008]. It just comes naturally in the moment; you can't plan such things. Generally it depends on how important that wicket is and how vital it was in terms of turning the game. Sometimes I laugh at the celebration when I see it afterwards. The other dismissal that I liked was when I had [Paul] Collingwood caught and bowled in Mumbai [2006] when I dived to my left. I was full of energy. There were a few catches that got dropped and I took a beauty. So once I took that brilliant catch, I took off and charged towards the crowds.

Who is the batsman you least like bowling to? And who is the toughest batsman you have bowled to? asked JT from India
Virender Sehwag, because he hardly defends anything. In the 2001 series Matthew Hayden was quite tough. Brian Lara was very difficult to bowl to. I didn't get to bowl much against Lara, but Hayden was more difficult in that series because he made big runs against us. Though Lara was definitely a much better batsman than Hayden. After 2001 I had a good measure of Hayden and didn't allow him to dominate much.

I am a budding offspinner. How can I develop the doosra? How long did it take you to develop your doosra fully? asked Ram Lakhani from India
It is very difficult to explain in words. All a youngster can do is lock his wrist and try to roll the ball over, making sure the seam position is towards the slips. The doosra came by chance to me - I was experimenting during my days at the Sports Authority of India Academy in Chandigarh, around 1996.

The thumb rule in bowling offspin is to point the seam towards leg slip, but I wanted to send the ball straight. So I started to bowl with a straight seam, like a fast bowler. Once that started to happen I locked my wrist and tried to see if I could send the ball the other way. I practised really hard to perfect the delivery.

A lot of spinners lose their stock ball, the offspinner, by bowling a lot of doosras, so I would suggest that they perfect one delivery as their stock delivery and use the doosra judiciously.

What has been your favourite batting innings? asked TG Moses from India
In Tests there has been more than one, and all of them came when the team was looking for someone to perform well lower down the order. One such innings was against Australia in Bangalore in 2008, when we drew the game. Then in the same series, in the final Test, which we won. I also enjoyed the knocks in Sydney and Adelaide in the 2007-08 away series. Earlier in 2009 I got a 60 against New Zealand and we would have won the Test if the rains had not arrived.

My next aim is to get a Test hundred. There are many senior batsmen who have given me good advice over the years. Initially I would not listen. I would just hit the ball. Now I spend enough time in the middle before I start playing the shots.

Who is your best friend in the Indian team? And in the Australian team? asked Sriniket from the USA
I've got lots of friends. Maybe I'm everyone's best friend! Shane Warne has always been there whenever I've asked him for any sort of help as a bowler.

Your attitude is more like a fast bowler's. Did you ever think of being one while growing up? asked Mark van Pieterse from South Africa
No, no, no. I don't think I have the physique to be a fast bowler. I wouldn't have survived for 11 years as a fast bowler. I do it for fun in the nets at times, and chuck if I want to hit someone on the head!

What is your favourite international ground to bowl on? And which country do you enjoy touring the most? asked Girish Selvaraj from Canada
The Oval. Maybe because I've played for Surrey. It is a true pitch with a lot of bounce. I wish I was bowling during the final Test of the 2009 Ashes - I would've got a lot of wickets.

England is my favourite country to tour, mainly because it doesn't feel like I'm outside India. The grounds are good-looking and the atmosphere is really good at the grounds and I like playing there.

Who is the best spinner you have ever faced? asked Addis from Australia
Muralitharan. Being a spinner myself it is easy to read him from the hand and understand what he is doing, but it is still difficult to face him as a batsman.

 
 
"I bowl medium pace for fun in the nets at times, and chuck if I want to hit someone on the head"
 

You won Ek Khiladi Ek Hasina (dance show). Are you a better dancer than Sreesanth? asked Natasha from the UAE
I won the show so that means I was the better dancer, isn't it? I don't think Sreesanth would like it, since he was comparing himself to Michael Jackson. And I'm nowhere near that league. I don't enjoy proper dancing but I like jumping and shaking my hips to songs like "Dhan Te Nan…"

What is your favourite dismissal of all time in international or first-class cricket? asked James Deauville from the UK
It has to be Michael Hussey in the Bangalore Test. There was a spot outside his off stump that I was trying to hit every time from wide off the crease and round the wicket. The plan was to bowl at least four balls in that spot and make him play the other two, hoping he would miss or give a catch to the close-in fielder. He hit one doosra for a six over midwicket. So I pushed the fielder at short midwicket deep, with a short leg, so that if he attacked or defended I had a fielder in position. And I started to bowl doosras frequently. The ball that dismissed him was another doosra. It cut in so much, as if it was a legspinner, and bowled him. I couldn't believe it myself.

What is the most important thing to keep in mind while bowling in Twenty20?asked P Sairam from India
You have to back yourself every ball and make sure you don't give away easy runs. You can't ever make the batsman feel that you are going to pitch at length within his range, because he is already thinking of hitting you.

How many different kinds of deliveries do you have? Which is the hardest delivery to bowl for an offspinner? asked Kishore from India
Offbreak, fast and slow offspinners, the doosra, topspinner, skidder. The hardest delivery has to be the stock ball because you have to bowl it regularly and make sure it lands on the seam every time and goes where you want it to go.

What has been your best performance in Test cricket? asked Steven from Australia
The 2001 home series against Australia will be up there. Recently the match hauls in New Zealand were very good and the 10-wicket performance in Sri Lanka last year was another good performance.

How many Test wickets do you think you'll finish with? asked Rohit Salarpuria from India
I would like to finish with 600 Test wickets at least. Usually I set my targets match to match and try and achieve them.

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi

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