World Cup winner, World T20 winner and one of India’s greatest spinners, Harbhajan Singh was born on this day in 1980 in Jalandhar, Punjab.
In an international career spanning over 17 years, the ‘Turbanator’ has picked up a total of 711 wickets — the most by an Indian off-spinner and the second highest by an Indian.
He made his debut in 1998 against Mark Taylor’s Australia in Bengaluru, finishing with figures of 2/136 in a losing cause. Australia were defeated 2-1 in that series and they lost by the same margin on their next tour of India. But in 2001, their tour coincided with the greatest phase of Harbhajan Singh’s professional career.
He picked 32 wickets in the three-match series, becoming the first Indian bowler to take a Test hat-trick and also hit the winning runs in Chennai to secure a miraculous series win.
But his rivalry with Australia also provided the lowest point of his career. His confrontation with Andrew Symonds during the second Test of the 2007-08 series is one of the ugliest controversies the game has seen. He was initially charged with racial insult but on appeal, his charge was reduced to abuse.
In the same year, he was banned for the entire IPL season after three games for slapping S Sreesanth post Mumbai Indians’ away game against Kings XI Punjab.
His IPL career may have taken off on the wrong foot, but in subsequent years, he cemented his legacy as one of the best to have played in the tournament. In 11 seasons, the off-spinner has picked up 134 wickets and is fourth on the all-time list of leading wicket-takers.
He was pivotal in Mumbai Indians securing their maiden IPL title, picking up 24 wickets in 19 games in 2013. Later that year, he guided them to Champions League T20 glory, registering figures of 4/32 which earned him the player of the match award in the final.
He further went on to win two more titles with Mumbai Indians, and added a fourth in 2018, by being a part of the Chennai Super Kings’ successful campaign post their two-year absence.
Harbhajan has also provided some entertaining moments with the bat. The most memorable being his mid-wicket slog for six to beat Pakistan in the Asia Cup in 2010. He has scored two centuries and nine half-centuries in Tests. In T20 cricket, he has proved to be dangerous with the bat, scoring quick runs in the closing stages of the innings.
From the highs of Kolkata to the lows of Sydney, to winning the World Cup in Mumbai, Harbhajan Singh has had an extraordinary career and will go down as a modern-day great in Indian cricket history.