Home > Features >

Harbhajan Singh turns 34: Is there a comeback in the offing?

Harbhajan Singh last played for India in 2013  © Getty Images
Harbhajan Singh last played for India in 2013 © Getty Images

Harbhajan Singh is arguably one of Indian cricket’s finest bowlers but hasn’t been at his best for a while. On his 34th birthday, Shiamak Unwalla looks at the road ahead for the man who was once the toast of the nation.

Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered his iconic dialogue, “I’ll be back,” in his role as the titular Terminator in the 1984 James Cameron-directed Sci-Fi classic. It is a line that would suit Harbhajan “Turbanator” Singh quite well at the moment.

Bhajji, as he is fondly called, has not been India’s lead spinner for quite some time now. The advent of Ravichandran Ashwin and the meteoric rise of Ravindra Jadeja have meant that India’s former champion bowler is now in the wilderness of domestic cricket. For someone who has played over 100 Tests and almost 230 ODIs, making a comeback at the age of 34 is not outside the realms of possibility.

Harbhajan started off as someone who looped the ball regularly, foxed batsmen with his doosra, and captured wickets by the truckload. With time and the advent of Twenty20 (T20) cricket, his bowling became more and more defensive. The objective changed from going for wickets to saving runs. The tantalising loop was replaced by leg-stump darts. The doosra disappeared entirely. And Harbhajan, the wicket-snaring Turbanator, was replaced by Harbhajan the mostly-economical-and-sometimes-wicket-taking-option.

He was dropped from the Test team in 2011, after India’s nightmarish series in England. He made a couple of fleeting appearances after that, playing England again once in 2012 and Australia a couple of times in 2013. But those were almost token appearances; an opportunity for him to go past 100 Tests for India.

It seemed that Harbhajan — that passionate, fierce, lion-hearted cricketer — had played his last game for India. He was stable during the 2013 domestic season, but did not set the world alight. The ICC World T20 2014 saw Amit Mishra peaking wonderfully, to go with Ashwin and Jadeja, who were already ahead of the curve.

However, the Indian Premier League (IPL) 7 showed a glimpse of the Harbhajan of old. He and Lasith Malinga were the only two Mumbai Indians (MI) bowler who looked at all threatening. After Malinga departed for Sri Lanka’s tour of England, the responsibility of leading Mumbai’s attack was taken up by Harbhajan. He may not have had the figures to show for it, but ‘Bhajji’ was back!

The loop, the markedly slower pace, the bite, and the will to take wickets were all back. In fact, Harbhajan made his views clear when he was not selected for India’s tour to Bangladesh or India A’s tour of Australia. He spoke about his performance in IPL 7, saying, “Among the Indian spinners, I believe that I bowled the best.”

Harbhajan is not a part of any Indian squad at the moment. However, Ashwin’s overseas record is far from impressive; Mishra’s form since the World T20 has not been too good; and Jadeja isn’t as potent as one would like. It seems that Harbhajan is rediscovering himself at the right time. If he can put in some soliddisplays soon, he could well find himself back in Indian colours in time for the ICC World Cup 2015. Perhaps this isn’t quite hasta la vista for him yet!

(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 31, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Harare

India tour of England 2014

Sep 2, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Birmingham

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Sep 2, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Harare

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Sep 4, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Harare

India tour of England 2014

Sep 5, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Leeds

More

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 30, 2014  at Dambulla

SL won by 7 wkts (D/L method)

India tour of England 2014

Aug 30, 2014  at Nottingham

India won by 6 wkts

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 29, 2014  at Harare

South Africa won by 61 runs

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 27, 2014  at Harare

South Africa won by 7 wkts

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 27, 2014  at Basseterre, St Kitts

No result

Photos

Aaron Finch's record 156 vs England in T20I

Videos

Alastair Cook looks ahead to 3rd ODI at Nottingham

Ambati Rayudu has to make every opportunity count if he is to play in ICC World Cup 2015

India vs England 3rd ODI at Trent Bridge: Highlights

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 2014 3rd ODI at Dambulla: Highlights

MS Dhoni records most stumpings in international cricket during India-England 3rd ODI at Trent Bridge

Give Virat Kohli a break, India

Australia Australia and South Africa in Zimbabwe 2014 England England vs India England vs India 2014 India India tour of England 2014 India vs England India vs England 2014 Pakistan South Africa Sri Lanka Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 2014 Zimbabwe Zimbabwe Triangular Series 2014

MS Dhoni credits spinners’ solid display for India’s win over England in 3rd ODI

Jonathan Trott cleared for selection by England’s medical team

Virat Kohli-Ben Stokes involved in verbal spat during India vs England 3rd ODI at Trent Bridge

Former cricket coach Sumit Bose passes away

India trounce England by six wickets in 3rd ODI at Trent Bridge; take unassailable 2-0 series lead

Statistical review of batsmen with two or more consecutive ducks from ODI debut

Ambati Rayudu has to make every opportunity count if he is to play in ICC World Cup 2015

India vs England 3rd ODI at Trent Bridge: Highlights

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 2014 3rd ODI at Dambulla: Highlights

MS Dhoni records most stumpings in international cricket during India-England 3rd ODI at Trent Bridge

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

667 Posts | 6 Fans

10 Most Unbeatable Records in Cricket

Beware! sugary drinks may increase risk of cancer and heart disease

Ebola infected monkeys said to be recovering with ZMapp

HTC to finally unveil two wearables, Desire 820 with 64-bit processor at IFA on September 4

Ganesh Festival 2014: Salman Khan’s former co-star Daisy Shah attends Ganpati celebrations at his residence-view pic!

NGOs pursue education for all

Statistical review of batsmen with two or more consecutive ducks from ODI debut

This is the only Apple iPhone 6 leak video you should watch ahead of September 9 launch

International programme in Animal Husbandry

MS Dhoni credits spinners’ solid display for India’s win over England in 3rd ODI

Ganesh Festival Song of the Day: Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Shree Ganeshay Dheemahi’ from Viruddh

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here