Special Correspondent

Everyone was up for the fight: Harbhajan

I have been quite fortunate on a few occasions: Amla

KOLKATA: Harbhajan Singh said after his match-winning performance (eight wickets for 123 runs) in the second Test at Eden Gardens that India had proved it deserved to be the top-ranked team.

The series-equalling victory has ensured that M.S. Dhoni's side will not only retain the Test mace, which it received after defeating Sri Lanka last December, but will also receive US$175,000, which is presented to the side that reaches the April 1 cut-off date in top spot.

“There has been a lot of talk about us that it was a fluke to be the number one side,” said Harbhajan. “It was not a fluke at all, we have worked really hard to reach the top and today we showed the world that we deserve to be number one. We have learnt that if we fight till the end we will do special things. Everyone was up for the fight.”

Asked how he dealt with the criticism after the first Test, Harbhajan said: “The media creates sensations that Bhajji is not bowling well, that Bhajji is doing this, doing that. I have my own people who are always there for me.

Thanking Kumble

“Anil Kumble will probably always be the one who will call me and tell me that there is nothing wrong with me. It is just that you guys [media] who create sensational stories and call Kumble to ask what is wrong with Harbhajan.

“He just told me, ‘you have taken 300 plus wickets … you know what you can do. You just have to be confident and it is just a matter of time before you get wickets'. I would like to thank him for the advice, even on the field settings for particular batsmen like Jacques Kallis. Thank you, Anil bhai for helping me out.”

Harbhajan said he enjoyed bowling at Eden Gardens. “Every player has his own special ground,” he said. “Anil bhai always enjoyed bowling in Delhi and I have always enjoyed bowling at the Eden Gardens. Eden has always been special.

“I have not heard this kind of noise anywhere in India. In Test matches we don't get crowds, but Eden has probably the best ground as you get crowds for all five days. It does not matter whether India is batting or bowling.”

Asked about Amla's heroic innings, Harbhajan said, “Most of the teams that come here don't know much about the spin, whether it is turning, bouncing or keeping low from the wicket. But he was very calm throughout his batting and that was probably the key. I think he was the best batsman in the South African batting line-up.”

Amla modest

Amla was disarmingly modest about his exploits. He totalled 490 runs from three innings and spent 23 hours and 21 minutes at the crease. Only once during his three centuries was he dismissed.

“I have been quite fortunate on a few occasions,” said Amla. “Every professional cricketer goes through certain tours and series where he excels. I have just been fortunate that this tour has been my opportunity. Things have gone for me on the field. I only look at it as good fortune.”

Terrific series

South African captain Graeme Smith said it was a terrific series. “We dominated the first Test match. We had opportunities at tea here on the first day when were 200 for two,” he said.

“We just let ourselves down in the last session and gave India the upper hand. In the sub-continent it is very difficult to play catch-up cricket. Once we gave them the upper hand, they really drove the bus through the door.”

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