July 03, 1980, Jullundur (now Jalandhar), Punjab
Right hand Bat
Right arm Offbreak
A player of passion with the talent to match, Harbhajan Singh kept the flag flying for fingerspin in an era of prolific wristspinners, flat pitches and big bats. Bowling with a windmilling, whiplash action, he varied his length and pace, and turned it the other way too. His deadliest ball was the one that climbed wickedly from a length, forcing a hurried jab. In March 2001, it proved too much for the all-conquering Australians, and Harbhajan collected 32 wickets in three Tests - including the first Test hat-trick by an Indian - while none of his team-mates managed more than three.
His personal rivalry with the Australians was responsible for both the highest and the lowest points of his career. Invariably he managed to raise his game against them, and was singularly responsible for Ricky Ponting's low scores on Indian soil - he dismissed him five times for fewer than 12 runs each time in the 2001 series. Some of his punchiest batting performances came against them too. But in 2008 a confrontation with Andrew Symonds created one of the ugliest controversies in cricket, when he was charged with racial abuse, which was reduced to abuse on appeal. But the IPL threw the two of them together, and they forged a relationship as teamm-ates at Mumbai Indians, for whom Harbhajan played ten seasons between 2008 and 2017, even leading them in 20 matches.
Though he was part of India's winning campaign in the inaugural T20 World Cup, in 2007, like many of his contemporaries, he took time to adapt his game to the shortest format from ODIs, in which he was an integral part of the Indian team. However, Harbhajan's legacy will be his contribution to India's dominant home record in Tests and the deadly partnership he forged with Anil Kumble on relatively batting-friendly pitches - they took 366 wickets in 34 matches they played together, in which India was defeated in a series just once. Till R Ashwin surpassed him in 2021, Harbhajan was India's most successful Test offspinner.
Batting & Fielding