Harbhajan Singh Retirement: India’s match winner who gave it his all

A small point jump, followed by a two-step angled run-up and a quick action that duped the thugs. (More cricket news)

Harbhajan Singh repeated this on sunny days, dreary afternoons and those sparkling floodlit evenings for a decade at a time, winning games for India. And then one day everything came to a standstill.

READ: Harbhajan Singh is retiring

Not all beautiful love stories have a perfect ending and you can bet that the 41-year-old would ideally have wished for a happier end to his cricket script when he left the cricket field.

But you shouldn’t regret it, because it was a beautiful journey full of experiences that make life worthwhile and anyone who knows him well would testify that the R-word in his dictionary never stood for “regret”.

He’s been semi-retired in the past few years, having last worn the India Blues in 2016, but every story – good, bad, or ugly – requires a shutdown and for India’s Turbanator, his resignation announcement officially marks the end of one of The Most Fascinating Chapters of Indian Cricket.

With over 100 tests and over 400 wickets, most of which aren’t exactly ranked gymnasts, Harbhajan’s name will always appear among the true blue cricket elites of India.

And with two limited World Cup titles in the bag, it’s an enviable résumé for any top cricketer.

“I would like to take some earth from Eden and keep it in my back yard in Punjab. Kali Maa’s blessings and Kolkata’s love were very special for my journey in cricket. ” ?? ¨ @ harbhajan_singh’s relationship with the City of Joy is indescribable  ??  ??  ?? # ThankYouBhajji #KKR #AmiKKR pic.twitter.com / 4kWSrjAcOE

– KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) December 24, 2021

He was unique in his own way with all of his weaknesses, heartburn and controversy and the many imperfections that made him even more lovable.

His leader has always been Sourav Ganguly, someone whose foresight may have prevented him from emigrating to the United States in early 2000 after his father’s death.

And during those ugly days of Greg Chappell versus Ganguly, he was the only cricketer to back his skipper only to be pulled up by the BCCI.

He would never shrink from what he believed to be the truth, and so the National Cricket Academy’s stale food protest led to his expulsion by then-boss Hanumant Singh.

Questions have been raised about his action and he had to undergo tests twice to come out clean.

The infamous “Monkeygate” episode in which Andrew Symonds accused him of racial abuse challenged him mentally and he realized it over time.

The controversy surrounding the shoving of S Sreesanth during the IPL was avoidable, but it could well be temporary in those days and the incident that led to his suspension occurred during the first edition of that event.

The brightly colored patkas, the roar of a lion with each firing and the love of a good junk made Harbhajan a true blue rock star in the early days of the new millennium when the Indian cricket team under Sourav Ganguly tried to pick up pieces after it closed the core of the match fixing scandal.

Extremely combative, almost flammable with appropriate skills, Harbhajan showed in its splendor the kind of prey that only a few can.

Ask Ricky Ponting, a legend of the era who dismissed Harbhajan almost a dozen times in test cricket.

Ponting could never really measure Harbhajan’s Doosra and the bounce he created with his lanky 6-foot frame.

They say any player’s greatness is measured by how they fare against the best of their time, and those 32 wickets against Australia will forever be the crowning glory of their international career.

Name the dough and Harbhajan took it out.

Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh, Jacques Kallis, Andrew Flintoff, he has them all.

Yes, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Younis Khan and Kumar Sangakkara caused a lot of trouble, but that didn’t stop him from making a significant contribution to winning friendlies in Jamaica, Hamilton and almost one more in Cape Town.

It had five forums in three of the four SENA countries, with the exception of Australia.

If you make a fair assessment and review Harbhajan’s best years between 2001 and 2011, India rarely played on the rank of Turners or the proverbial snake pits, where the ball became square from the first session on the first day and the games within a maximum of two and a half days would end.

Aside from one game in Wankhede, where even Michael Clarke got six wickets, Harbhajan’s performance didn’t seem track dependent.

In India, when Anil Kumble and Harbhajan formed the strongest bowling partnership, most of the friendly matches India won took place on either the late fourth day or early fifth day.

It was also an era when the quality of the test hits hadn’t deteriorated.

So what exactly was it that made Harbhajan so special?

The awkward jump and pace generated off the field made it fatal as all outfield players were in business.

And the “Doosra,” which in simple terms or in layman’s language would be a broken leg for any weirdo learned from watching Saqlain Mushtaq and adapted well enough to scare the best in the business.

When the ball spun at this rate and the unsettling ricochet in the other direction, the batsman had very little reaction time.

Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni, SS Das, Sadagoppan Ramesh and Aakash Chopra will swear they are always on the alert as the ball would fly at different heights in each direction.

Often times, goalkeepers who kept up with him said that the ball made a “snake-like hiss” as it drifted through its flight when Harbhajan was in rhythm. And it happened when someone put their whole body behind the ball.

No one has done it like him before and no one can still do it like him after the feisty Sardar from Jalandhar left the scene.

In the period between 2007 and 2011, he received a new life under then coach Gary Kirsten when he became a great white ball bowler – Michael Clarke’s York in the semifinals of the 2007 T20 World Cup or defeating Umar Akmal at a pure pace and He performed tricks in a tense World Cup semi-final when it mattered.

In his later years, as IPL hit the mind, he became one of the finest exponents of restrictive T20 bowling with up to 150 wickets in the league, most of it for Mumbai Indians.

Between 2011 and 2016 his career spiraled downwards and as luck would have it, it coincided with the rise of Ravichandran Ashwin.

He’d taken 400 wickets when he was only 31 and could easily have gone over 500 wickets.

When he returned from injury in 2011, the selection teams decided to move on and when he got sporadic chances the cricket establishment didn’t hold him down as it should have been for him to be a champion.

He wanted to aim high in this India shirt, but some things are just not meant to be.

A few months ago, a popular Kota Factory web series had a fleeting scene in which an IIT contender with a backpack suddenly made shadow bowls while walking down the street.

A smiling Harbhajan shared the excerpt, reminding of his own glory days, “Doesn’t that seem familiar?”

This spot jump and whiplash action, a fad for all teenagers of the new millennium.

As Sachin Tendulkar once told this correspondent, “Harbhajan made a generation fall in love with the art of off-spin.”

He actually did.

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