NEW DELHI: Bowling in the county circuit has given Harbhajan Singh the best platform to prepare for a comeback to the national team.
Losing his place was a blow indeed, but the off-spinner has used the experience to improve his mental toughness; he has come to accept certain hard facts of life.
“Never take your place for granted,” is a lesson he pledges to remember at the end of every successful venture.
When the offer to play as a professional for Surrey came Harbhajan’s way, he did not waste time. It was better than bowling to a single stump in a nondescript ground in Jalandhar.
“It was a great experience playing for Surrey. It is very tough cricket but it is better than sitting at home. Being in the team keeps you fit mentally and physically strong. Sitting at home can lead to negative thinking. One tends to keep brooding on why you have been dropped,” said the off-spinner from London.
Harbhajan, the first Indian bowler to take a hat-trick in Tests, concedes that the conditions in England can be exacting for a spinner.
“It gets very difficult to bowl in these (overcast and windy) conditions. The ball does not spin much. You just have to keep the ball in the right spot and try and bowl well according to the field. The aim is to concentrate on playing well rather than worrying about what is happening around.”
Maturity reflects in his assessment of life after being dropped from the Indian team. “It has been a good learning experience. There will be lot of people around when you are on the top but when you are not then few will back you. That is the way life goes for everyone and not just me ... so no complaints really ...”
Harbhajan’s motivation comes from watching Anil Kumble. He has profuse praise for the genial leg-spinner, “Anil bhai has done great things for Indian cricket. He is always there to support all the youngsters. After playing with him for many years I am amazed to see how hungry he is for wickets.”
Included in the Indian team for the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, the 27-year-old Harbhajan looked at the opportunity with an open mind. “There is future for Twenty20 no doubt. It has its own challenges and attractions. Twenty20 is for the hard-hitting batsmen and it will put enormous pressure on bowlers. I know one thing, Twenty20 will kill the skill of spinners.”
Harbhajan, who has a tally of 238 wickets in Tests and 174 in ODIs, does not agree he has changed after losing his place in the side.
“I am the same old Harbhajan, jolly and a bit naughty.”