Ranji Trophy is gateway to the Indian team for youngsters: Harbhajan Singh

Indian off spinner Harbhajan Singh feels Ranji Trophy is an important tournament in Indian cricket calendar and youngsters can learn a lot by playing alongside national players Getty Images

By CricketCountry Staff

Mumbai: Nov 3, 2011

After guiding Indian premier League (IPL) side Mumbai Indians (MI) to a surprise Champions League T20 (CLT20) victory in October, Harbhajan Singh is all set to lead his home state Punjab in the upcoming Ranji season.

Harbhajan Singh was quoted in an interview in BCCI website as saying, “Whenever I play a match I do set myself a target. In this year s Ranji Trophy I just want to go out and play as well as I can and do every possible thing to ensure my team s victory. The team is very happy and excited to have me by their side after such a long time. They re all looking forward to it and so am I.”

Harbhajan also said he is enjoying the role of a captain and said working as a team towards a collective goal has been his mantra as a captain.

He said,” So far things have gone well for me as captain and all I can say is that I m looking forward to the Ranji season. We begin the tournament on November 3 with a game against Uttar Pradesh and we ll look to start off well.

“I ve always enjoyed challenges and captaincy is nothing but an add-on to the various challenges you face as a cricketer. You have to take 10 more guys along with you on the field, guide them and lead them. All I try to do as a captain is carry all the boys along and make each one of them feels like an important part of the team. I try to ensure the whole team is on the same page and is working towards a collective goal.”

The off spinner feels Ranji trophy is an important tournament in Indian cricket calendar and he feels youngsters can learn a lot by playing alongside national players. “Ranji Trophy is very, very important in any Indian cricketer s career because it is the gateway to the national team. When I got into the Punjab Ranji side as a 16-17-year-old, I saw the likes of Navjot Singh Sidhu, Vikram Rathore and Ashish Kapoor, who were all senior players.

“It was very special for me to be a part of the team and play with these players. When a youngster makes it into a Ranji side, he knows his performances will be noticed and doing consistently well at this stage will earn him an India cap. Ranji Trophy is the first step to fulfilling the India dream.”

Harbhajan also hoped that with a set of young, enthusiastic players, Punjab would able to deliver in the upcoming season. He said,” I don t want to put my finger on any number as to [our chances] of winning. All I can say is that we have a very good team, a young side that is very excited and keen. They have done well at different levels of cricket they ve played thus far and are a happy bunch of players. Hopefully, we ll all do well this season.”

Harbhajan sill relishes his first Ranji season in 1997-98 when he dismissed the then veterans Raman Lamba and Ajay Sharma. “I still remember my first Ranji season, in 1997-98. I remember we were playing against Delhi and I got Raman Lamba and Ajay Sharma out. They were very already established names in India s cricketing circuit and getting them both out was very satisfying for a rookie like me,” said Harbhajan.