From Bhajji to The Turbanator, our very own Harbhajan Singh was a world class Off-spinner, who represented India in all the three formats for a very long time (1998-2015). He has the Fourth-highest number of Test wickets by an off-spinner behind India’s Ravichandran Ashwin and Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath. Singh was captain of IPL team Mumbai Indians and Punjab for the 2012–13 Ranji Trophy season. Under his captaincy, Mumbai Indians won the 2011 Champions League Twenty20.
Harbhajan broke into the Punjab Under-16s at the age of 15 years and 4 months in November of the 1995–96 season, and took 7/46 and 5/138 on debut against Haryana, setting up a nine-wicket win. He scored 56 in his next match against Delhi and then took 11/79 in his third match against Himachal Pradesh, orchestrating an innings win. He ended with 32 wickets at 15.15 and 96 runs at 48.00 in four matches. He was rewarded with selection for North Zone Under-16s, a team that represents all of northern India for a one-day series, in which he took two wickets at 43.50 in four matches and scored 18 runs. At the end of the season, he was called into the national Under-19 team at the age of 15 years and 9 months for a youth One Day International against South Africa.
He took 1/19 from seven overs in an Indian win. In 1996–97, Harbhajan was promoted to the Punjab Under-19s and he took 15 wickets at 20.20 in three matches, although he managed only two runs with the bat. This included match figures of 8/54 in an innings win over Jammu and Kashmir. Harbhajan made his first-class cricket debut in late 1997 against Services, during the 1997–98 Ranji Trophy season. He took a total of 3/35 in an innings win but was dropped back to the Under-19s the following week. He then took 5/75 and 7/44 in two matches to earn a recall to the senior team. He then took a total of 7/123 in the next two matches for Punjab to earn selection for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy. Harbhajan’s season was interrupted when he represented India at the Under-19 World Cup in January 1998. He played in six matches, taking eight wickets at 24.75 with a best of 3/5 against Kenya.
Harbhajan played the full 2009 Indian Premier League season in South Africa, taking 12 wickets at 21.33 and an economy rate of 5.81 in 13 matches. He was one of the most economical bowlers in the competition, and took 1/9 in four overs against Punjab to win the man of the match award. He ended the season with 4/17 against Delhi, but it was not enough to prevent a four-wicket defeat. During the 2010 IPL season, he finished as the Mumbai Indian’s leading wicket taker with 17 victims at an average of 22.17 helping his team to reach the final. Kolkata Knight Riders was the last team in IPL he was a part of in 2021.
Harbhajan made his Test and One Day International (ODI) debuts in early 1998. His career was initially affected by investigations into the legality of his bowling action, as well as several disciplinary incidents. 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, becoming the first Indian bowler to take a hat-trick in Test cricket. Post his 2001 cricket performance, he was offered, by Government of Punjab, a role of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, in Punjab Police, but due to its non-compliance by Harbhajan Singh, same was later withdrawn.
A finger injury in mid-2003 side-lined Singh for much of the following year, allowing Kumble to regain his position as the first choice spinner in Tests and ODIs. Harbhajan reclaimed a regular position in the team upon his return in late 2004, but often found himself watching from the side-lines in Test matches outside the Indian subcontinent with typically only one spinner, Kumble, being used. Throughout 2006 and into early 2007, his accumulation of wickets fell and his bowling average increased, and he was increasingly criticized for bowling defensively with less loop. Following India’s first-round elimination from the 2007 Cricket World Cup, his was replaced by other spinners in the national squad for both formats. He regained a regular position in the team in late 2007, but became the subject of more controversy. In early 2008, he was given a ban by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for racially vilifying Andrew Symonds.
The ban was revoked upon appeal, but in April, he was banned from the 2008 Indian Premier League and suspended from the ODI team by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for slapping Sreesanth after a match. He appeared in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling’s Indian promotion, Ring Ka King. He played a major part in the World Cup-winning team of 2011 Cricket World Cup.
Harbhajan Singh finally announced today to retire from all forms of cricket after a long period of successful cricketing life, taking 780 wickets.