Unheard Stories: The ‘Turbanator’ who might not have been
He was India's best bowler in that series [PC: Twitter]
The Australian tour of India in 2001 was a major turning point, not only for team India or Captain Sourav Ganguly but for a young off-spinner, whose career at that stage looked well over.
'The Final Frontier'
Well, let us get a backdrop of the tour. The Australian winning wagon was bulldozing teams all-round the globe in the longest format of the game. They were on a run of 15 consecutive Test wins. The then Australian skipper, Steve Waugh, declared the Indian tour as the ‘Final Frontier’.
Steve Waugh and Sourav Ganguly during the series (PC: Twitter)
In the first match of the series the World Champions thrashed India by 10 wickets. The scene for India got worse as in addition to their lead spinner, Anil Kumble, their prime strike bowler Javagal Srinath also got injured after the first Test.
Come the second match in Eden Gardens history was to be made. Behind one of the greatest turnarounds in cricket history, the prime architect would be a 21-year old off-spinner who was dropped from the Indian team primarily due to his attitude issues.
Harbhajan's comeback story
Harbhajan Singh made his international debut in 1998. But the way he carried himself on and off the field did not impress the team management and it was the sole reason he was dropped from the team.
Well, Harbhajan got back to the domestic circuit and did the grinding to prove himself. At this stage Sourav Ganguly, the new Indian skipper became interested in Harbhajan Singh. The rebel in Bhajji impressed Sourav and he wanted that aggressive attitude in his team against the Aussies.
Sourav Ganguly trusted the youngster for this series
During the selection for the series, Ganguly fought hard for Harbhajan and included him in the team that was to play the series. Just ahead of the main business, the touring team was to play a practice match against Board President’s XI. VVS Laxman was leading the side and Bhajji was a part of the playing eleven.
For Harbhajan this was one final chance and he wanted to leave an impression in the practice match. But despite getting a good rhythm in the match he was under bowled. The decision to do so was Sourav Ganguly’s. He prompted Laxman to not use him too much as he did not want the Australian’s to come prepared during the main war.
Harbhajan Singh, the game changer
He tormented the Aussies throughout the series
Well, as the series ended, India had pulled up a miraculous victory in the second match and made a great comeback to win the series. As far as Bhajji is concerned he picked up 28 wickets in the two tests that India won along with a hat-trick at Eden Gardens.
Bhajji never looked back after that in his career and when time came to hang up his boots he had 417 Test wickets to his name. Well the miraculous comeback is known to everyone but the unrelenting backing of a skipper and the fight of a youngster was not. This article was all about how the confidence shown by a captain changed the career of a player.