He has not had the time to drive his Hummer. Catching up with friends and relatives at home, Harbhajan Singh is yet to come to terms with the defeat against Pakistan in the Champions Trophy.
One bad match; one off day…but what a price to pay!
“Only the previous match (against Sri Lanka) I took five wickets (in the final). It was Bhajii wah wah. But that performance was forgotten most conveniently and it became Bhajji hai hai,” pondered Harbhajan from Jalandhar.
But then analysts these days are very harsh, very demanding. “Nothing short of five wickets would please them. Can you get five wickets every time you bowl in a match?” asks an exasperated Harbhajan.
“Bad bowling costs India the match.” “Bowlers let India down.” The headlines seem so familiar. But Harbhajan knows cricket is a “batsman’s game” and has no complaints.
“If I have bowled badly, can I escape criticism? But is it fair to slam one man in a team game. I think we failed as a team. We gave away a lot of runs. We didn’t play good cricket.”
Harbhajan refused to accept that India was not a big-match winning team. “We beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka comprehensively. Not a bad achievement considering the fact that Sri Lanka had thrashed Pakistan at home before us.
“Please don’t judge the team on the basis of one game. We have played consistently well. Did we not bowl out the West Indies for a low score? If you ask what good is this West Indies team then I would ask why was it playing the Champions Trophy?”
How did he react after the game? “I put my hand up and accepted the blame. I didn’t bowl well. I was feeling bad from within. I was hurt too and that’s why I took the responsibility as a senior bowler. I have been through it. I have seen Murali and Warne go for lots of runs. They are great bowlers, aren’t they? I am also entitled for an off day. Sad but then how can people write me off just because I bowled badly in one match.”
Not the one to shirk work, Harbhajan, 29, has been his captain’s most trusted bowler. Why else would M.S. Dhoni fall back on spinner Harbhajan to bowl with a ball as good as new.
“I have no problems bowling at any stage. That’s my job. I always prepare myself mentally to bowl in the power play, slog overs, or any difficult situation. I enjoy it. I can bowl even with the new ball. But it hurts when you are slammed for one bad performance.”
It can be tough adapting to bowl in different situations. Harbhajan looks at it pragmatically. “It is challenging and tough. It is easy to adjust if you happen to move from Test cricket to one-day cricket or T20. Test cricket allows you to bowl a lot of overs. But to adjust to Test cricket from one-dayers or T20 can be very demanding. There is hardly any need to try the loop or turn in the shorter form of the game.”
T20, Harbhajan noted, was all about how you react to punishment. “It is about bowling your four overs well. They can come in four spells. It is only about playing the mind game well. Wickets don’t matter, containment does. It is about how to choke the batsmen. Spinners have a lot to do and there is a lot of space for them.”
“We play for our fans. We know their expectations too. But it is better to be realistic about things. Sometimes the other team plays better. But the media over-hypes and then trashes us. I don’t have time for those who write and broadcast crap.
“We are here to entertain people and not to please the media. I get the feeling that the media these days just waits for the team or an individual to fail. And then they savage their target mercilessly.
“I have no time for them,” said the ace off-spinner, who, with 330 Test and 219 ODI wickets, is junior only to Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, in this team.