Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Player Profile(#10)...Harbhajan Singh(India)

Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh

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harbhajan_singh_with a pretty girl

Harbhajan Singh pronunciation (Punjabi: ਹਰਭਜਨ ਸਿੰਘ, born: 3 July 1980 in Jalandhar, Punjab, India) is an Indian cricketer and is one of the world's most successful off spin bowlers.

Harbhajan made his Test and One Day International (ODI) debuts in early 1998. His career was initially beset by investigations into the legality of his bowling action and disciplinary incidents that raised the ire of cricket authorities. However in 2001, with leading leg spinner Anil Kumble injured, Harbhajan's career was resuscitated after Indian captain Sourav Ganguly called for his inclusion in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy team. In that series victory over Australia, Harbhajan established himself as the team's leading spinner by taking 32 wickets and becoming the first Indian bowler to take a hat trick in Test cricket.

A finger injury in mid 2003 sidelined him for much of the following year, allowing Kumble to regain his position as the first choice spinner. Harbhajan reclaimed a regular position in the team upon his return in late 2004, but often found himself watching from the sidelines in Test matches outside the Indian subcontinent with typically only one spinner, Kumble, being used. Despite unremarkable Test performances in 2006, which led to speculation about his lack of loop and his waning value as a strike bowler, he remains India's first-choice ODI spinner.

Early years and personal life:

Harbhajan was born into a middle class Punjabi family, the only son of businessman Sardar Sardev Singh, who owned a ball bearing and valve factory. Growing up with five sisters, he was in line to inherit the family business, but his father insisted that he concentrate on his cricket career and represent India.

Harbhajan was trained as a batsman by his first coach Charanjit Singh Bullar, but converted to spin bowling after his coach's untimely death saw him turn to the tutelage of Davinder Arora. Arora credits Harbhajan's success to a work ethic that included a three hour training session in the morning, followed by another in the afternoon lasting from 3pm until after sunset, using the headlights of a parked scooter to provide light.

Following the death of his father in 2000, Harbhajan became the family head, and as of 2001, had organised marriages for three of his sisters. In 2002, he ruled out his own marriage until at least 2008. In 2005, he again fended off marriage rumours linking him to a Bangalore based bride, stating that he would only make a decision "after a couple of years", and that he would be seeking a Punjabi bride selected by his family. In 2007, in an interview with Tim Sheridan for the Cricket Show, he admitted that he hoped his marriage would take place within the next year.

In a country where cricketers are idolised, Harbhajan's performances have brought him government accolades and lucrative sponsorships. Following his performance against Australia in 2001, the Government of Punjab awarded him Rs. 5 lakh, a plot of land, and an offer to become an honorary Deputy Superintendent of Punjab Police, which he declined. Harbhajan is also an employee of Indian Airlines, for whom he does promotions.

Somewhat ironically, after being offered an honorary post with the police, Harbhajan sustained minor injuries in March 2002 in an altercation with police outside the team hotel in Guwahati. The scuffle broke out when Harbhajan remonstrated with police officers after they refused to allow a photographer into the hotel. Harbhajan was struck by the police, cutting his bowling arm and injuring his elbow. Extensive negotiations from local officials and organisers were required to dissuade Harbhajan and captain Sourav Ganguly from leaving the area after Ganguly said that the Indian team would abandon the scheduled match against Zimbabwe.

One of his common nicknames, outside India, is The Turbanator, deriving from his skill as a bowler in terminating the innings of the opposing team, and the fact that, as a Sikh, he wears a black turban whenever he plays. Among Indians, Harbhajan is more commonly known as bhajji. It was estimated in 2005 that Harbhajan was the most recognised and commercially viable Indian cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar, in part due to his colourful personality and iconic turban, as well as his reputation for enjoying the celebrity social scene. His signing for English county team Surrey in 2005, based at The Oval in London, was partly attributed to his marketability. Harbhajan had generated a large personal following in the western London suburb of Southall, which boasts a majority Punjabi Sikh population, when he lived there in 1998 whilst training under Fred Titmus.

In 2006, Harbhajan's endorsements generated controversy when he appeared without his turban in an advertisement for Royal Stag whisky. This angered many orthodox Sikhs, leading to anti-Harbhajan protests in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, with effigies of Harbhajan being burnt. The Sikh clergy and Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee demanded an apology from him and asked Seagram's to withdraw the advert, on the basis that it had "hurt the feelings of Sikhs". Harbhajan quickly issued an apology, but he was also unhappy at the clergy's interference, stating "If they were unhappy, they should have called me and talked to me like a son".

Early career:

Harbhajan made his first-class cricket debut in late 1997, during the 1997/98 Ranji Trophy season for Punjab cricket team. Playing in six matches, he took 18 wickets at an average of 22.5, ranking outside the top 20 in both wicket taking and averages. He played in only one Duleep Trophy match for North Zone, in which he took 5/131. Despite many bowlers having superior domestic performances, Harbhajan was selected to make his Test debut in the Third Test against Australia in Bangalore, where he recorded the modest match figures of 2/136. He was subsequently overlooked for the ODI tournament that followed the Tests, involving Zimbabwe in addition to Australia, but was selected for all group matches in the triangular tournament that followed soon after in Sharjah, where he made his ODI debut against New Zealand. Harbhajan was fined and reprimanded by the match referee in his first international series, when his on-field behaviour was adjudged to breach the ICC Code of Conduct, following an altercation with Ricky Ponting after Ponting was dismissed by Harbhajan.

Harbhajan was then omitted from the team during a home triangular ODI tournament against Bangladesh and Kenya, but was recalled for the Singer Trophy in Sri Lanka, claiming eight wickets at an average of 24.1. After again being omitted for the Sahara Cup series against Pakistan in Toronto, Harbhajan took five wickets at an average of 22.6 on a tour to Zimbabwe, in what would proved to be his last ODI appearances for India for more than two years. In all, he took 18 wickets at an average of 27.2 during the calendar year.

Harbhajan was retained in the Test team, taking 5/106 in the only Test on the Zimbabwe tour. However, his opportunities were limited in the 1998/99 season, playing in five of the seven Tests after being omitted for matches against New Zealand and Pakistan respectively. In all, he claimed 13 wickets at an average of 36.8. When he was free of international fixtures for the season, he played in the Ranji Trophy matches, claiming 27 wickets at an average of 24.59 in five matches, including his first five-wicket haul at first-class level. Harbhajan was overlooked for the ODI team for the whole season and missed selection for the 1999 Cricket World Cup. He managed to retain his Test position for the late 1999 home series against New Zealand, as India fielded a three pronged spin attack on dusty tracks, taking six wickets at an average of 32.66.

International exile:

Harbhajan toured Australia in 1999/2000, as the second spinner. He did not play in the Tests, with India opting to field only Anil Kumble in the team. Upon returning to India in early 2000 for the latter stages of the season, Harbhajan was again unable to find a position in the Indian team, as Murali Kartik became Kumble's spinning partner.

In mid-2000, an opportunity arose when Harbhajan was selected in the first group of trainees sent to the National Cricket Academy to study under Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan, two off spin bowlers from the Indian spin quartet of the 1970s. However, his behaviour did not conform to requirements, and he was expelled on disciplinary grounds by director Hanumant Singh. His sponsorship job with Indian Airlines was also reviewed as a result of his indiscipline. Harbhajan later admitted that he had been at fault earlier in his career.

Following his run-ins with Indian cricket administrators, there was nothing to indicate that Harbhajan's chances of national selection had improved at the start of 2000/01. Despite Kumble being injured, Harbhajan was again overlooked as Kartik, Sunil Joshi, and debutant Sarandeep Singh were entrusted with the spin bowling duties in Test matches against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe on the subcontinent. Having made little success in this phase of his international career, averaging 37.75 per wicket, and seemingly out of favour with selectors, Harbhajan faced a difficult decision. His father had recently died; as the family's only son, Harbhajan was now obliged to support his mother and unmarried sisters. He contemplated quitting cricket and moving to the United States to drive trucks for a living. After being out of the team for more than 12 months, there was little indication of the sudden rise that would occur in his cricketing career only a few months later.

2001 Border-Gavaskar Trophy:

With Kumble injured during the home series in March 2001 against the visiting Australians, Harbhajan, whose previous best Test figures were only 3/30, was entrusted with a heavy burden. He was to lead the spin attack against an Australian team which had set a world record with 15 consecutive Test victories, and was searching for its first ever series victory on Indian soil since 1969. Harbhajan started well in the First Test in Mumbai, taking three quick wickets in a spell of 3/8, to reduce Australia to 99/5 in response to India's first innings of 176. However, a counter-attacking 197-run partnership between Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist in just 32 overs, saw Harbhajan concede 103 runs from his last 17 overs, to end with 4/121. Despite being struck for many sixes into the crowd, it was still Harbhajan's best statistical analysis at Test level, as Australia proceeded to a crushing 10-wicket victory, their sixteenth consecutive Test victory in succession.

With leading paceman Javagal Srinath ruled out of the series with a finger injury during the First Test, the teams met for the Second Test in Kolkata, with an even bigger burden on Harbhajan. Public opinion was sceptical about India's chances of stopping Australia's winning streak, with former captain Bishan Bedi lamenting the demise of Indian cricket. Australia were again in control on the first day, having scored 193/1, with Hayden having struck Harbhajan out of the attack. Harbhajan fought back to reduce Australia to 252/7, taking five wickets in the final session, including Ricky Ponting, Gilchrist and Shane Warne in successive balls to become the first Indian to claim a Test hat-trick. After a prolonged wait for the third umpire to adjudicate whether Sadagoppan Ramesh had managed to catch Warne before the ball hit the ground, the near-capacity crowd at Eden Gardens erupted when he was given out. Harbhajan eventually finished with 7/123 as Australia were bowled out for 445. India batted poorly and were forced to follow-on, but a 376-run partnership between V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid, who batted together for an entire day, allowed India to set Australia an imposing target of 384 to win on the final day. Australia appeared to be safely batting out the match for a draw, until losing 7/56 in the final session, collapsing from 166/3 to be bowled out for 212. Harbhajan claimed four of the wickets, to finish with 6/73 for the innings and a match tally of 13/196. India ended Australia's 16-match world record winning streak, and became only the third team to win a Test after being forced to follow on (Australia having lost all three of those matches).

The teams arrived in Chennai for the deciding Third Test, and Australia's batsmen again seized control after winning the toss, reaching 340/3 on the second morning. Then, Australian captain Steve Waugh padded away a delivery from Harbhajan. The ball spun back into Waugh's stumps, who pushed the ball away with his glove, becoming only the sixth batsman in Tests to be given out "handled the ball". Waugh's dismissal instigated another Australian batting collapse, losing 6 wickets for 51 runs to be bowled out for 391, with Harbhajan taking all six in a spell of 6/26, to finish with 7/133. After India's batsmen gained a first-innings lead of 110, the Australian batsmen were again unable to cope with Harbhajan in the second innings, who took 8/84 to end with match figures of 15/217. India appeared to be heading for an easy victory at 101/2 chasing 155, before losing 6/50 to be 151/8. Perhaps fittingly, Harbhajan walked to the crease, and struck the winning runs. He was named man of the match and man of the series, having taken 32 wickets in the series, when none of his team-mates managed more than 3. The Wisden 100 study conducted by Wisden in 2002 rated all four of Harbhajan's efforts in the Second and Third Tests in the top 100 bowling performances of all time, the most for any bowler. He paid tribute to his father, who had died just six months earlier. His performance led to him usurping Anil Kumble's position as India's first-choice spinner.

Later career:

Harbhajan's Test success saw him recalled to the ODI team after more than two years. He was unable to reproduce his Test form against Australia, managing only four wickets at an average of 59.25, and a cameo batting performance of 46 runs from 34 balls, including three sixes. He was dropped from the ODI team during a subsequent triangular tournament in Zimbabwe in 2001 after only managing two wickets at 69. Harbhajan was also unable to maintain his form in the Test series, taking eight wickets at 29.1 in the series against Zimbabwe, but did manage to post his first Test half-century, reaching 66 in the First Test in Bulawayo. The Indians subsequently toured Sri Lanka in mid-2001, enjoying spinning wickets similar to those in India. Harbhajan managed to establish himself in the ODI team with eleven wickets at 21, but his Test form deteriorated further, yielding only four wickets at 73, while Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was named man of the series with 23 at 19, in what was billed as a contest between the world's two leading off-spinners. Harbhajan was omitted from the Indian team in favour of Kumble on the following tour of South Africa, only playing in the later matches when India fielded two spinners. Nevertheless, Harbhajan continued to average 20 in the ODI format, winning his first man of the match award in the ODI form in an ODI against South Africa in Bloemfontein. His disciplinary problems continued when he was one of four Indian players fined and given a suspended one match suspension for dissent and attempting to intimidate the umpire by over-appealing.

Harbhajan's Test fortunes improved immediately upon the start of the 2001/02 international season in India. Playing in his first international match at his home ground in Mohali, Punjab, Harbhajan took match figures of 7/110, including 5/51 in the first innings, to help India win the First Test by ten wickets against the touring English team. He continued his steady form throughout the series with another five wicket haul in the Second Test in Ahmedabad, to end with thirteen wickets at 24.53 for the series. Harbhajan's good form persisted in the matches against Zimbabwe, taking twelve wickets at 19.66. His 2/70 and 6/62 in the second Test in Delhi saw him named man of the match in a Test for the second time in his career. As in the first instance, he hit the winning runs, a straight-driven six. He also performed strongly in the ODIs during the Indian season, taking twenty wickets at 19.75 in ten matches and taking his first five wicket haul in ODIs.

Harbhajan's overseas difficulties returned during the tour of the West Indies in mid-2002. He injured his shoulder while fielding in a tour match, and was forced to miss the First Test in Guyana. After taking only six wickets at 38 upon his return to the team for the Second Test, he was dropped for the Fourth Test, but was recalled again for the Fifth Test at Sabina Park, after Kumble was injured. Despite taking improved figures of 8/180, Harbhajan was unable to prevent an Indian defeat. He claimed three wickets in the three match ODI series at 33. Despite his performance at Sabina Park, Harbhajan was dropped again when Kumble returned for the First Test on the tour to England at Lord's. India's coach John Wright later admitted that this had been a mistake. Harbhajan returned for the final three Tests with moderate success, taking 12 wickets at 34.16, as well as managing his second Test half-century of 54 at Trent Bridge in the Second Test. The 2002 ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka at the end of the tour brought moderate results with six wickets at 30.66, and a best of 3/27 in the washed out final against the host nation.

As was the case in the previous season, Harbhajan's return to Indian soil coincided with an improvement in results. He took 8/85 in an innings victory at Mumbai in the First Test against the West Indies, and then contributed match figures of 7/135 and 37 in an eight wicket victory in Chennai which saw him named man of the match. A haul of 5/115 in the Third Test at Calcutta was the best in a high scoring match, and with 20 wickets at 16.75, Harbhajan was named as the man of the series. He was unable to transfer his performances to the ODI format, taking only six wickets at 50.16 against the same team. Harbhajan took only five wickets in the subsequent Test tour to New Zealand, in a series where five pace bowlers averaged less than 20 on seaming tracks.

Harbhajan had a mixed tournament at the 2003 Cricket World Cup, taking 11 wickets at 30.45. He was the first-choice spinner and played in all matches but one, being dropped against arch-rivals Pakistan. His rival, Kumble, played in only three matches. Harbhajan was the only Indian bowler to take a wicket in the defeat to Australia in the final, taking 2/49. He was the fourth leading wicket taker for India overall and his tournament bowling average was worse than those of Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Javagal Srinath. He finished the season with six wickets at 14 in an ODI tournament in Bangladesh, where he was fined for abusing an umpire.

Finger injury:

After experiencing pains in his spinning finger during the World Cup, Harbhajan was scheduled to undergo surgery in mid-2003 in Australia, but the surgery was delayed as he sought to play through the pain. He underwent physiotherapy in lieu of surgery and was declared fit for a two-match Test series against New Zealand in late 2003. His performance was substantially worse than his previous displays on Indian soil, taking only six wickets at an average of 50. Aside from his debut series, it was his worst series bowling average on Indian soil. Despite an ODI series in which he managed only four wickets at 40.5, the Indian team attempted to manage his injury rather than have his finger operated on, and took him on the 2003/04 tour of Australia. After an ineffective 1/169 in the First Test at Brisbane, his injury deteriorated and he underwent major finger surgery late in the year 2003. Kumble replaced him and took 24 wickets in the remaining three Tests. Kumble bowled India to victory in the following Test against Pakistan in Multan, taking 6/71 to reclaim his position as the No.1 spinner.

After a seven-month layoff, Harbhajan returned to represent India in ODIs in the Asia Cup in July 2004, where he took four wickets at 39.75 in four matches. His performance improved markedly on the tour to England for an ODI series against England and the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy, taking eight wickets at 14 and hitting as an unbeaten 41 against England at The Oval.

Harbhajan made his Test return against Australia, who were again seeking their first series win on Indian soil since 1969 in the late 2004 home series. Harbhajan took 5/146 in the first innings and 6/78 in the second innings in addition to making a run out to reduce Australia from 103/3 to 228 all out. Despite this, India required 457 in their second innings to win, slumping to 125/8 before Harbhajan (42) and Irfan Pathan helped India to reach 239, still a 217-run loss. Harbhajan was less effective in the drawn Second Test in Chennai, with match figures of 5/198, and withdrew from the Third Test in Nagpur due to illness. Australia won the match, clinching the series. Harbhajan returned for the final Test. After failing to take a wicket in the first innings, he claimed 5/29 in the second to help India bowl Australia out for 93 and claim a dramatic 14 run victory. Harbhajan ended the series with 21 wickets at 24.

A Test series in India against South Africa followed, with Harbhajan taking match figures of 4/166 in the First Test in Kanpur, before producing a man of the match performance in the Second Test in Calcutta to lead India to a 1-0 series win. After taking 2/54 in the first innings, he took 6/78 in the second, including South Africa's first five batsman to set up a successful run-chase of 117. Harbhajan was the leading wicket-taker for the series, with 13 at an average of 23.61. He ended 2004 with a quiet tour of Bangladesh, scoring a 47 and taking four wickets at 41.75 in two Tests and one wicket at 94 in two ODIs. He had a relatively light workload, bowling only 47.4 overs, as Irfan Pathan frequently scythed through the Bangladeshi batsmen with the new ball, taking three five wicket hauls.

His performance in Bangladesh saw him dropped for the First Test in the early 2005 series against Pakistan on his home ground in Mohali, with Kumble being the only spinner selected on the pace-friendly surface. He was recalled for the Second Test in Calcutta and took match figures of 4/145 in an Indian victory. Despite taking 6/152 in a marathon 51-over spell in the first innings of the Third Test in Bangalore, Pakistan won the match to level the series. He finished the series with 10 wickets at 33.2. His performance in the subsequent ODI series was even worse, managing only three wickets at 73.66 in five matches. In spite of the poor end to the season, his performance in the year since finger surgery saw him nominated for the 2005 ICC Test Player of the Year. Harbhajan spent the international off-season playing for Surrey in English county cricket, citing the improvement that other international players had gained from such an experience. It was his first stint in county cricket, after a planned season at Lancashire in 2003 was cancelled due to injury.

Chappell era:

Harbhajan's first outings under newly appointed coach Greg Chappell came at the Indian Oil Cup in Sri Lanka in August 2005. He took five wickets at 31.4 in four matches, but was wicketless in the final, which was won by the host nation. This was followed by a tour of Zimbabwe, which was marred by tension between the new coach and Indian captain Ganguly. Harbhajan played in five matches in the Videocon Tri-Series involving Zimbabwe and New Zealand, managing only two wickets at 94, both of them against an inexperienced Zimbabwe team crippled by a mass exodus of white players from the Mugabe regime. Harbhajan had a quiet Test series against Zimbabwe, taking six wickets at 31. He was only required to bowl 58 overs, as the majority of the Zimbabwean batsmen were removed after being unable to cope with Pathan's swing which was likened to "Frisbees at high speed". He managed to claim his 200th Test wicket in the First Test, and in doing so became the second youngest player to reach the mark after Kapil Dev. Harbhajan's batting was notable for an exceptionally aggressive 18-ball innings in the First Test in Bulawayo, where he struck four fours and three sixes in a cameo innings of 37.

Harbhajan's difficulties were compounded when he earned the ire of cricket authorities by publicly attacking Chappell and defending Ganguly after the team returned to India. He claimed that Chappell had used "double standards" and instilled "fear and insecurity" into the team. The Punjab Cricket Association called him to explain his actions, but he was not punished after offering an apology. In early 2006, Harbhajan changed his stance publicly, praising Chappell for the team's improved form, stating "He has great knowledge about the game and it has been a very successful year for us under him. He has lifted our team to great heights".

Harbhajan was under pressure to perform when Sri Lanka toured India in late 2005 following his attack on Chappell and the replacement of Ganguly, who had frequently supported him during previous career difficulties, with new captain Rahul Dravid. In addition, his home ODI form had been poor in the previous three years, managing only 12 wickets at 56 in 16 matches, with an economy rate of 4.8.[89] He responded by claiming 3/35 in the first ODI in Nagpur after Sri Lanka had raced to 50 in just 6.3 overs. The Sri Lankan batsman hit the Indian fast bowlers out of the attack, scoring 74 runs in the first 10 overs and forcing Dravid to delay the Power Play and introduce Harbhajan. This sparked a collapse, with 4 wickets taken for 14 runs, resulting in a 152-run Indian victory. Harbhajan aggregated six wickets at 26 in the first four matches, at a low economy rate of 3.43, with a series of performances noted for skillful variations in pace and flight, helping India gain an unassailable 4-0 series lead. He was subsequently rested for the fifth ODI, and ended the series as the most economical bowler.

He put on another strong personal performance in the first ODI of the following series against South Africa in Hyderabad, where he struck an aggressive unbeaten 37 from 17 balls, including two sixes, to help India recover to 249/9, before taking 1/35 from his 10 overs. He was unable to prevent an Indian loss, and was fined after pointing Ashwell Prince to the pavilion after dismissing him. Harbhajan ended the series with five wickets at 27.4, and was again India's most economical bowler.

2005 ended with a three Test series against Sri Lanka. After the first match in Chennai was washed out due to rain, Harbhajan took match figures of 4/137 in as India took a 1-0 series lead. He finished the calendar year with a man of the match performance in Ahmedabad, which saw India seal a 2-0 series victory with a 259 run victory. He took 7/62 in the first innings, including six of Sri Lanka's top eight batsmen. A middle-order batting collapse, with 6 wickets falling for 82 runs, allowed India to take a 193-run first innings lead. Harbhajan later contributed an aggressive innings of 40 not out from 51 balls, in an unbroken 49 run final-wicket partnership with Kumble in the second innings, their display of unorthodox hitting stretching India's lead to 508 runs . His prospects of a half century were cut short by a declaration from acting captain Virender Sehwag, but he was compensated with opening the bowling, as Sehwag employed a novel tactic of assigning the new ball to a spinner. He took 3/79 to finish with match figures of 10/141, ending the year on a high note after he had been embroiled in the leadership struggle only three months earlier.

Test decline:

2006 began with Harbhajan's first tour to arch-rivals Pakistan. The First Test was a high scoring draw held in Lahore, where Harbhajan recorded his worst ever Test figures of 0/176 in a match where 1,089 runs were scored for loss of just eight wickets. In a match in which many batting records fell, Harbhajan was hit for 27 runs in one over by Shahid Afridi, just one short of the world record. The second Test in Faisalabad was another high scoring draw, with the aggregate runs being the fourth highest in Test history. Harbhajan took 0/101 and 0/78. His 81 overs in the series were the fourth highest amount of overs in any Test series without taking a wicket. When he was given the opportunity to make use of the batting surface, he managed a brisk 38, including two sixes. Harbhajan was dropped for the Third Test in Karachi, where a green pitch promised to favour seam bowling, and Kumble was the only spinner used. After sustaining an injury, Harbhajan was sent home during the subsequent ODI series without playing a match, ending his tour without taking a wicket.

A return to Indian soil for the Test series against England failed to ease Harbhajan's wicket-taking difficulties. He managed match figures of 2/172 in the drawn First Test in Nagpur, and 1/83 in the Second Test in Mohali, where his main contribution was to hit 36 runs, helping India to a first innings lead. Despite taking 3/89 and 2/40 in the Third Test in Mumbai, Harbhajan ended the series with eight wickets at an average of 48, nearly twice his career average on Indian soil. Despite his difficulties in Test cricket, Harbhajan's ODI form remained strong, as he top-scored with 37 and then took 5/31 in a man of the match performance in the first ODI against England in Delhi, sparking a collapse of 7/47 which secured a 39-run victory. He ended the series with 12 wickets at 15.58, and topped the wicket-taking list, as well as having the best bowling average and economy rate.

Harbhajan was unable to maintain his ODI form on the tour to the West Indies, where he managed three wickets at 64 in five matches. He was omitted from the Test team for opening two Tests as India opted to use three pace bowlers and Anil Kumble, scrapping the five bowler strategy used since early 2006. The reasons were unclear, with performance, fatigue and injury variously offered as explanations. Harbhajan was recalled for the Third Test in St Kitts after the pace attack was unable to dismiss the West Indian batsmen, with West Indies captain Brian Lara stating that his team would have been lucky to draw the Second Test had Harbhajan been playing. In a drawn match, Harbhajan claimed the leading match figures of 6/186, as well as contributing an unbeaten 38. Harbhajan's 5/13 in the first innings in the Fourth Test saw the hosts lose their last six wickets for 23, to give India a 97 run first innings lead. India went on secure a victory in a low scoring match in three days and win the series 1-0. It was India's first series victory in the Caribbean in 35 years, with Harbhajan contributing 11 wickets at 24.

The 2006/07 season began with the DLF Cup in Malaysia, where Harbhajan made a good start to the season, taking six wickets at 17.5 in four matches. He was man of the match against the West Indies, scoring 37 in a 78-run partnership to push India to 162, before taking 3/35 to secure a 16-run victory. He was unable to maintain his form in the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy held in India, managing only two wickets at 51.5 and saving his worst performance of 0/49 in the final group match against Australia on his home ground in Punjab. The tour of South Africa in late 2006 saw even less success, taking only one wicket in three ODI matches while conceding 161 runs. He finished the year watching from the sidelines as India fielded Kumble as the only spinner in the three Test series. Apart from the injury hit 2003, it was Harbhajan's least productive year in Test cricket since he became a regular team member in 2001, managing only 19 wickets at 52.78.

Harbhajan returned for the early 2007 ODI series against the West Indies and Sri Lanka in India, taking seven wickets at 35.87 in seven matches. Despite criticism that he was afraid to toss the ball up, and was concentrating on bowling flat in a defensive run-saving style, Harbhajan was selected as the off spin bowler in the Indian squad for the 2007 Cricket World Cup, while Ramesh Powar, who had been more expensive but had taken more wickets recently was omitted. A statistical study showed that since the start of 2006, Harbhajan has been the second most economical bowler in the final 10 overs of ODIs.

Playing style:

Harbhajan is an attacking-minded bowler who exercises great command over the ball, has the ability to vary his length and pace, although he is often criticised for his flat trajectory. His main wicket-taking ball climbs wickedly on the unsuspecting batsman from a good length, forcing him to alter his stroke at the last second. With a whippy bowling action, he was reported for throwing in November 1998. He was forced to travel to England for tests, but his action was cleared by former English player Fred Titmus.

He has developed an ability to bowl the doosra, which was the subject of an official report by match referee Chris Broad, on-field umpires Aleem Dar and Mark Benson, and TV umpire Mahbubur Rahman after the Second Test between India and Bangladesh at Chittagong, Bangladesh in December 2004. The ICC cleared his action in May 2005, saying that the straightening of his elbow fell within the permitted limits.

Harbhajan averages 25 with the ball in home Test matches. All five of his man of the match awards and both of his man of the series awards have been obtained in India. His bowling average climbs to 40 outside India. Statistically, his bowling is most effective against the West Indies and Australia. His most productive hunting grounds has been Eden Gardens in Calcutta, where he has taken 33 wickets at 20.87 in five Tests, while the Chepauk in Chennai, where he has claimed two man of the match awards, has yield 27 wickets at 21.62 in four Tests. Harbhajan has claimed his wickets most cheaply at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, where he has taken 22 wickets at 19.45. Harbhajan tends to bowl outside off-stump more than Muttiah Muralitharan, who attacks the stumps; he captures 66% of his wickets via catches and only 22% by bowling or trapping batsmen LBW, whereas the corresponding figures for Muralitharan are 48% and 41%. Harbhajan's off spin complements Kumble's leg spin. While Harbhajan is known for his emotional and extroverted celebrations, which are part of a deliberate strategy of aggression, Kumble is known for his undemonstrative and composed approach. Both spinners have opined that they bowl more effectively in tandem via persistent application of pressure to batsmen, but statistics have shown that while Kumble has performed better when paired with Harbhajan, Harbhajan has been more effective in Kumble's absence.

In an interview in 2001, Harbhajan stated his ambition to become an all-rounder. Although he has recorded a few good batting scores, his batting average is less than 15 in both Tests and ODIs. However, in the span of four years starting from 2003, he has shown improved performance, averaging around 20 with the bat. His style is frequently described as being unorthodox, with pundits agreeing with his self-assessment attributing his batting achievements to his hand-eye coordination, rather than his footwork or technique. The aggression in Harbhajan's bowling also extends to his batting, with a Test strike rate of 67.95, which is surpassed by only six players who have scored more than 1000 runs in Test cricket.

Racial abuse charges:

Harbhajan received a ban of three Test matches after a Level 3 charge of racially abusing Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds calling him a "big monkey" whilst he was batting during the third day of the Second Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, was upheld by the match referee Mike Procter. This decision generated controversy since no audio or video evidence was used, instead relying on the testimony of Australian players. The BCCI filed an appeal against the decision on behalf of Harbhajan. The Indian team had initially threatened to withdraw from the series pending an appeal against Harbhajan's suspension, however later the BCCI president Sharad Pawar confirmed that, the tour would not be canceled even if Harbhajan's appeal did not go favourably. It was claimed that Harbhajan called Symonds a "monkey", a charge that Harbhajan and his batting partner at the time of the incident, Sachin Tendulkar, have denied.

On 2008-01-29, the appeal hearing was conducted in Adelaide by ICC Appeals Commissioner Justice John Hansen. After the hearing of the appeal, the racism charge on Harbhajan Singh was not proved and therefore cleared and three Test ban imposed on him by the match referee Mike Procter was lifted. However, lesser charge (Level 2.8 offense) of using abusive language was applied and Harbhajan was fined 50% of his match fee. Hansen later admitted he "could have imposed a more serious penalty if he was made aware by the ICC of the bowler's previous transgressions" - including a suspended 1 Test Match ban. Also it was reported that senior players had written a letter to John Hansen requesting a downgrading of the charge. The letter was signed by Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting and counter-signed by Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds.

Some references to other news articles and related sites about Harbhajan Singh:

Harbhajan gets a wicket

Harbhajan Singh bhajji www.bbc.co.uk

imageshow harbhajan singh

More Info about Harbhajan Singh can be found by going to these links and using Harbhajan Singh as keywords:

1. Outlookindia.com
2. Cricketfizz.com
3. Dnaindia.com
4. Cricketmaniacs.blogspot.com
5. Rediff.com
6. Wikipedia.com
7. Cricinfo.com

*Acknowledgements to owners of pictures and reference links. Also to Outlookindia.com, Cricketfizz.com, Dnaindia.com, Cricketmaniacs.blogspot.com, Rediff.com, Wikipedia.com, Cricinfo.com

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