"Wahi opposition, wahi lamha, wahi ground aur ek spinner jiska age bhi utna (The same opposition, same ground, another spinner of same age). Somehow as I was watching Kuldeep bowl, my mind travelled back to that afternoon (2001 March) at the Eden Gardens. It is a great achievement," Harbhajan said, recalling his own hat-trick against Australia as a 21-year- old, in an epic clash.
"For a young spinner, when you get a hat-trick early in your career, your confidence shoots up to a different level. This is a milestone which each and every cricketer savours for the rest of his life," said Harbhajan, whose hat-trick during the 2001 Eden Test is a part of cricketing folklore.
"Eden Gardens never lets anyone return empty-handed. And this achievement will forever be etched in the history books," the 37-year-old, who has more than 700 international wickets in his kitty, fondly recollected his exploits on the hallowed turf.
And now Harbhajan feels that the 22-year-old Kuldeep's performance will make it very difficult for the team management to readily bring back Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the 50-over format.
Asked how difficult it will be for Ashwin and Jadeja considering that both Kuldeep and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal are doing so well, Harbhajan was quite candid.
"It's always a difficult thing. If your current two spinners are doing well, then it becomes difficult for the senior spinners to make a comeback. For Jaddu and Ashwin, it will be an onerous task to make a comeback in the ODI side," Harbhajan observed.
"At the moment, these two boys (Kuldeep and Chahal) are really doing well and I don't see them being replaced by Ashwin and Jaddu. You can't predict what's in store for the future," he said.
What makes Kuldeep-Chahal combination special is the fact that the wrist spinners' ability to extract something from the pitch is independent of the conditions.
"Wrist spinners have certain advantages which is not condition dependent. Chahal has a good googly and can get his leg breaks to turn sharply. Similarly, Kuldeep can also get it to turn both ways.
"His wrong 'un is very effective. They have that x-factor required at the highest level," explained India's third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket.
He also observed that when the duo is bowling in tandem, their variation of pace through the air also makes it difficult for the opposition batsmen to pick it up.
"Both also bowl at different pace through the air. Kuldeep is a bit slower through the air while Chahal has a lower trajectory with slightly more pace on his deliveries.
They complement each other well. They have maturity beyond years and I am impressed with their ability to read the situations."
However, Harbhajan said the 2019 World Cup is far away and one can't predict who all will make it to that squad. "See, I don't know about the World Cup. World Cup is quite far away to be very honest but they are doing really well and I am really proud of them.
"Let's all wait and watch, how far these guys can go and continue doing well for India. I wish them all the luck and hope both grow from strength to strength."
First Published: September 22, 2017, 2:21 PM IST