<
>

'I'd be a dinosaur if I could come back as an animal'

"Virat Kohli will meet you and within ten minutes he'll be doing exactly what you do: your voice, your walk, your hands, everything" Associated Press

Harbhajan Singh talks about reincarnation, the music he plays in the dressing room, bingeing on Netflix, and the fastest bowler he faced

What was your best memory as a cricketer?
Lots, but probably the 2011 World Cup.

What's the toughest time you've had as a cricketer?
Early on, when I had to go for a chucking test and came to England to get my bowling action looked at [by Fred Titmus, in 1998]. That was very tough.

Your 2001 series against Australia was phenomenal, with 32 wickets. Did you ever bowl better? And did that create a burden for you to live up to for the rest of the career?
Yes, it probably did create a burden, but that series also gave me everything. I think I probably did bowl better at different times, but never got similar results. I took maybe 24 or 25 wickets [in a series], but maybe didn't have the same amount of luck on my side. In 2001, whatever I was touching turned to gold.

Who is the most skilful batsman you played with?
Sachin Tendulkar.

Who was the toughest guy to bowl at in Tests?
When Matthew Hayden was at his peak, I felt he was the toughest. He attacked, and at the same time he's got that build, that aura - he's there to dominate. Apart from him, Inzamam-ul-Haq was also very tough to get out.

Which cricketer you played with trained hardest and with the most dedication?
Rahul Dravid. He worked really hard on his game and till the end continued to try to do something to get better results for himself and the team.

Who is the funniest person you have played cricket with?
It's a hard one, but probably Virat Kohli. He mimics really well. He'll meet you and within ten minutes he'll be doing exactly what you do: your voice, your walk, your hands, everything.

And the smartest cricketer?
That must be Anil Kumble.

Do you have any superstitions?
I do, but I don't need to go into the specifics... I had my routine when I was bowling. Let's just say it had a lot to do with my bowling shoes, which one to wear first. Even now in IPL, I follow that. Whatever works for me, I do the same through the season.

It's the IPL final, last ball, six needed, and you're bowling. Who do you not want to be facing?
AB de Villiers.

Which is the better feeling: a Test hat-trick or a Test hundred?
Test hat-trick. Especially Ponting, Gilchrist, Warne.

Ponting was your bunny for a while...
I don't know about that, but I did get him out quite a lot. I don't know how that happened, but it did. Maybe he was watching my face instead of the ball. You get into that zone sometimes: "Oh no, that bowler again." More than me doing anything, he was getting himself out, because it's not as if he didn't know how to play against offspin.

You were the middle one of Stuart Broad's hat-trick at Trent Bridge in 2011, but got quite a large inside edge on the ball. What did you do when you got back to the dressing room?
Oh yes, that was a shocker. Thanks for reminding me! I didn't throw my kit but I was a bit upset, honestly.

Who was the best captain you played under?
Sourav Ganguly. He took over when the team was going through quite a lot - match-fixing scandals and things - and he backed a lot of youngsters and brought the team together. He allowed us to express ourselves, saying it is what we should be doing to win Test matches.

Who was the best coach you played under?
Gary Kirsten. He was more of a friend than a coach. He didn't say much, but when he did, it meant something.

You thought about going to the USA to drive trucks after your father's death?
I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but I was definitely looking for the option to go abroad and do something in life, to feed my family back home. I don't come from a family with a lot of money. When my father passed away, I could continue with cricket - but I was going through a lot of dramas out there, problems with the cricket board… Or I could take the easy option and go abroad to work. As what? Could be anything: truck driver, labourer, filling petrol, whatever. I had a lot of close friends who'd moved to America who were sending money home that way. I'm very happy I made the right decision, though!

If you could wave a magic wand and have any experience in another sport, what would you choose?
Winning the Wimbledon final. And I'd like to win the world heavyweight title, to know how it feels to be Muhammad Ali.

Can you cook? If so, what's your signature dish?
I don't cook, not really, but I can make an omelette. And rice. My wife says it's not cooking.

What's the worst injury you had?
I tore my ligament in my bowling finger playing against New Zealand in India, just before going on tour to Australia. I went into that series with an injury because the captain wanted me to go on tour. I told him that I was injured, but he said, "No, I need you there." The injury got a lot worse and took me out of the game for eight months, which meant I missed that historic series against Pakistan [2003-04].

Which cricketer has the worst dress sense?
You're getting me in trouble, but Rahul Dravid. Sorry, Rahul.

And the best?
Old days, I think Imran Khan - those pathanis, as we say it. Modern days, Virat Kohli dresses really well.

If you are in charge of the dressing-room music, what do you play?
Punjabi music. It's amazing. Everybody loves the beats.

Your favourite holiday destination?
New York.

You are on a long-haul flight. What do you watch: Hollywood or Bollywood?
Actually, I watch Netflix nowadays. I just finished Narcos, about Pablo Escobar. And I watched the Trump documentaries. Netflix is my new toy.

If you could be reincarnated as any animal, what would you choose?
A dinosaur.

Who is the quickest bowler you faced?
Shoaib Akhtar. Crazy pace.

If you were putting together an IPL squad, who would be the first three picks?
Can I have five? I'll go for Jasprit Bumrah, Rohit Sharma, AB de Villiers, Lasith Malinga and Ben Stokes. No, MS Dhoni for the last place. Sorry, Ben!

What about a World XI for Test cricket: who are the first three names on the team sheet?
Current: Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Jimmy Anderson. All-time: Sachin Tendulkar, Viv Richards and Kapil Dev.