Harbhajan Singh has 417 scalps in 103 Test matches for India    Getty Images
Harbhajan Singh has 417 scalps in 103 Test matches for India Getty Images

Harbhajan Singh may not be the same force in international cricket today after all these years, but his contribution to Indian cricket will go down in history as one of the best. A fierce competitor on and off the field, Harbhajan has had his share of controversies be it the Monkeygate scandal involving Andrew Symonds or allegedly slapping S Sreesanth during an IPL game. Sitting pretty at the third spot in the list of most wicket-takers in Test cricket for India, with 417 scalps in 103 matches, Harbhajan can still better his record if he manages to find more wickets in the longest format of the game something which has been a tough task for him as he heads towards the end of his career. READ: Happy Birthday, Harbhajan Singh; India off-spinner turns 36

Undoubtedly, the phase from 1998 to 2010 remained his best, and like many other Indian heroes, he too ran out of luck post the England tour back in 2011. He suffered a stomach injury on that ill-fated to the tour of the Old Blighty, and since then, the Turbanator has found going a lot tough.

There are loose allegations that Harbhajan s wicket-taking abilities diminished rapidly since the retirement of Anil Kumble, but the fact that bowlers hunt in packs never made a strong statement in his case. While the others Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra and even Ravindra Jadeja (in recent times) found wickets on consistent basis Harbhajan found himself being constrained to the role of a container which any Test side cannot afford. If he is able to bring back the mojo in his final few years keeping in mind the 13 Tests that India are supposed to play in next 10 months or so at home, Harbhajan can actually give himself a fitting farewell. READ: The joy of watching Harbhajan Singh bat

In limited-overs cricket, especially in the IPL, Harbhajan is no less than a monster. With 269 wickets in 236 ODIs, he is at the fifth spot in the list of most wicket-takers for India. And in T20Is, he is at the sixth spot currently with 25 wickets in 28 games, but he will soon be toppled from that position with Jasprit Bumrah (24 wickets) breathing right down his neck.

Back in 2010, against New Zealand, his twin centuries in a Test series at home, made Harbhajan prove his mettle with the bat once again. In the cash-rich T20 league (IPL) wherein he has remained a pillar for the Mumbai Indians (MI), Harbhajan has dished out many performances both with the bat and the ball that not only won his side many matches but kept making a strong statement that he still has a lot of cricket left in him.

Unfortunately, the unrelenting Indian fans who want their heroes to perform in the same passion that they love, have not spared one of India’s finest cricketers. When the unavoidable tough phase arrived for Harbhajan who struggled with fitness, wickets, form and resultantly confidence, there were hardly a few who stood behind him.

However, Harbhajan, after all these years, has understood it all pretty well. He goes about his job as passionately as the others do, and cares only about India doing well on the field.

The upcoming season will have India hosting Bangladesh, New Zealand, England and Australia for a total of 13 Tests. Harbhajan might have missed the flight to the Caribbean for a four-Test series, but there are strong chances of India once again turning back to their ace spinner for the matches ahead. And if he gets a chance and performs, India s domination will go many notches higher.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)