Just a few days ago, he said that he wanted to win the Champions League T20 title for Sachin Tendulkar. And Mumbai Indians’ Harbhajan Singh is happy that he has achieved it with his match-turning performance in the final.
“I’ve spent many years with him, he’s been a great cricketer but for me he’s a very close friend. I’ll always remember the advice he has given me and it’s going to be a very emotional day when he walks on to the field for the last time,” said the 33-year-old offspinner at the Nehru Stadium here on Thursday evening. He hopes to make a return to Team India when Tendulkar plays his last Test.
Staying focused has always been Tendulkar’s forte. And Harbhajan will always remember the advice his friend gave him.
‘Walk the straight path’
“The best advice I’ve got from him was when I got 32 wickets against Australia. After that series, he just told me one thing: ‘You need to see where your path is, rather than who is standing alongside the path, if you continue to walk on the path nobody will stop you. You’ve got to be focused on your job, there will a lot of things which will attract you towards them, endorsements, people who would want you for your time and stuff but this is your game and whatever you are, is because of this game. Make sure you give a lot of respect to this game and keep your path clean and continue to walk on that. Those things will be taken care of.
“That was probably the best advice I’ve got. That is probably the reason why I’ve played more than 100-odd Test matches and I’m still playing. Great guy, great cricketer but he’s a good human being.”
Harbhajan, who is now playing the Duleep Trophy national inter-zone cricket championship in Kochi, also remembers the ‘treatment’ given by Tendulkar when he went wrong.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes but he has been there like an elder brother to tell me that this is not good for me. And he has got all the right to shout at me because I count him as one of my elders who could say things to me and even hit me.”
But has he shouted at you?
“There have been occasions when I needed some treatment…I got the treatment.”
Despite being one of the world’s greatest batsmen, Tendulkar has always been a learner.
“When it comes to cricket, he will not be shy to ask questions. If he’s batting against someone who’s bowling some particular balls, no matter even if the guy is under 16, he’ll catch hold of him and ask, ‘why don’t you come and bowl to me’.
“Even three days ago, we were in Delhi and we were playing the (Champions League T20) final, he was looking like the same Tendulkar I’d seen 20 years or 15 years back. Still asking questions like ‘is my foot going okay, is my bat right’.
So what will Tendulkar do after he plays his last ball?
“I think he’ll be a part of Mumbai Indians, for sure. We need his services.”
And which role will suit him best, a coach or administrator?
“Having him alongside will be enough, whether it’s coaching, administration, just having him along will be great.”