Ravichandran Ashwin’s shoddy overseas performance in recent times might have enhanced Harbhajan Singh’s chances of a return to the national side but the experienced off-spinner says he is “not competing” with the Tamil Nadu tweaker for a place in the Indian team.
“In all these years, I have only had one competitor. That’s me myself. I have never liked competing with (Ravichandran) Ashwin or anyone and it has remained like that over the years. International sport is a lonely journey. You compete with one’s self and try to grow as a cricketer,” Harbhajan told.
“No point in competing with two, three or four people. Try your best and leave it for others to judge. Also I don’t want to say a single word about any current India player,” Harbhajan said.
Ashwin was ineffective during India’s disastrous tours of South Africa and New Zealand and received flak from former spinners Maninder Singh and Narendra Hirwani. In fact, former captain Sourav Ganguly called for Harbhajan’s return to the national team.
Harbhajan has been out of the India team for one year but the 33-year-old spinner as always is relishing the challenge to fight his way back into national side. Asked if he had set any time-frame for himself, he replied, “The operative word here I believe is not age but motivation. Age is just a number. If someone can perform at 45, who will stop that fellow from playing top-level cricket.
“For me, it’s the motivation and passion to play the game at the highest level. I still want to play for India and it’s important to realise how badly you want that. I will continue playing as long as I can enjoy playing for India,” Harbhajan said.
For the man, who has nearly 700 international wickets across three international formats including 413 in Tests, it has been a “learning experience” of grinding it out in domestic cricket match after match after having enjoyed hero like-status in the Indian team for more than a decade.
“It is tough to play domestic cricket after playing more than 100 Tests (101) and 200-odd ODIs (229). But then adverse situations are testimony to one’s character. Either you face the challenges in life head on or back out. And I am not someone to back out from challenges,” Harbhajan said.
“I am not the only person to face these tough career situations. There has been numerous examples of sportsmen fighting it out with determination. Only person who can wriggle me out of this situation is myself. I am working hard and getting results also. There are concerned people (selectors) who will take a call as to when I can be brought back in the national side,” Harbhajan said.
Ask him about his philosophy of attacking bowling, he explains that it’s not only about having close-in fielders. “This is a wrong concept that you become an attacking bowler by placing close-in fielders. Your field placings are based on match situations. If you are playing on a track that doesn’t offer turn and bounce, it’s useless to keep a close-in fielder. The ball will never get to him,” he said.