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Harbhajan Singh enters player draft for The Hundred

BCCI rules will likely force the only Indian player in the draft to retire from international duty if he is to play overseas

Harbhajan Singh punches the air  •  BCCI

Harbhajan Singh punches the air  •  BCCI

Harbhajan Singh is the solitary Indian player to enter the draft for the inaugural season of The Hundred, which starts in July 2020. Harbhajan, who last played for India during the 2016 Asia Cup, has put his base price at £100,000.
Senior off-spinner Harbhajan is one of the 25 overseas player on the longlist with a base price of £100,000 (US$124,000) or more with the draft scheduled for October 20 in London.
The development is likely to raise eyebrows in the BCCI considering no Indian player can participate in overseas T20 leagues without having retired. Recently Harbhajan's former India and Punjab team-mate Yuvraj Singh featured in the Global Canada Twenty20, but that was possible only because the allrounder had retired.
ESPNcricnfo understands Harbhajan, who is 39, is keen to feature in The Hundred, but he is yet to approach the BCCI, which he will only do if he is picked in the draft. The tournament rules dictate only three overseas players are allowed in the squad as well as the team. In the extreme case where the only option left to him is to retire, it is understood that Harbhajan would not be shy to take that step.
Harbhajan's 417 Test wickets puts him as the 13th-highest wicket-taker overall and the third on the all-time Indian list in the longest format. In ODI cricket, Harbhjan is fifth on the all-time India list with 260 wickets. Despite having featured in the inaugural World T20 that India won in 2007, Harbhajan has only played 28 T20Is.
However, his stock in the IPL has always soared, where he is joint-third on the all-time list grouped with legspinner Piyush Chawla at 150 wickets. After a long and successful stint at Mumbai Indians, Harbhajan was bought by another multiple-IPL winner, Chennai Super Kings, led by old friend MS Dhoni in 2018. In the last two years, Harbhajan has been used by Dhoni mostly in the Powerplay where he has taken 11 wickets at an economy rate of 8.4 and average of 25. Overall he has 23 wickets in the last two seasons of the IPL in 23 innings at an economy rate of 7.67 and an average of 25.30.
Although Harbhajan waits in expectation for an India call-up, he is at the same time well aware that he has a limited shelf life as far his playing career is concerned. In 2020 he will be 40 and he will believe he still has at least two years left in him to play the shortest formats. For the past few years he has only featured regularly in the IPL. He stopped playing domestic cricket last year as he did not want to take up a position that could go to a young player.
Realistically the chances of the BCCI relaxing the rules remain highly unlikely. That would put the onus on Harbhajan, who would then need to retire to feature in the overseas leagues.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo