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Happy Birthday Harbhajan Singh: Here are 6 Controversies Surrounding the Spin Bowler

Harbhajan Singh, who made his Test and One Day International (ODI) debuts in early 1998, despite being a match winner on several occasions, has been embroiled in several controversies in his career, starting with investigations into the legality of his bowling action.

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Updated:July 3, 2019, 2:13 PM IST
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Happy Birthday Harbhajan Singh: Here are 6 Controversies Surrounding the Spin Bowler
File photo of Harbhajan Singh.

Famously known as Bhajji, Harbhajan Singh Plaha, the Indian international spin bowler, who has the second-highest number of Test wickets by an off spinner, behind Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan turns a year older today.

The cricketer, who made his Test and One Day International (ODI) debuts in early 1998, despite being a match winner on several occasions, has been embroiled in several controversies in his career, starting with investigations into the legality of his bowling action, as well as several disciplinary incidents. However, it was at Sourav Ganguly's insistence that he was given a new lease of life with his inclusion in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, that saw him becoming the first Indian bowler to take a hat-trick in Test cricket.

Here are a few controversies Bhajji has been known for in the course of his career.

His fight with Ricky Ponting: Harbhajan's maiden One-Day International series as a 17-year-old saw him not only getting Ponting stumped but also engaging in a war-of-words that left him with a fine and a ban for ODIS.

Speaking out against Greg Chappell: The spinner and Sourav Ganguly shared a great bond and following the ugly spat between Ganguly and then Team India coach Greg Chappell in September 2005, Harbhajan openly spoke against the coach and defended Ganguly. Harbhajan was summoned and reprimanded by the Punjab Cricket Board and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from speaking to the media about Chappell.

Monkeygate scandal: In 2007, while Australia was touring India for an ODI series, their only non-white cricketer Andrew Symonds and several other Indian cricketers got into a war-of-words. Later, while India was touring Australia in January 2008, Harbhajan was charged with a Level 3 charged for racially abusing Symonds when he allegedly called the all-rounder “monkey”. He was banned for three Tests and charged with 50 percent of his match fees. However, relying on Sachin Tendulkar’s testimony, Judge Hansen overturned Harbhajan’s ban.

Controversy involving Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist: Following the Monkeygate scandal, he launched a verbal attack on two of Australia’s most iconic cricketers —Hayden and Gilchrist. He called Hayden “a big liar”, and said that Gilchrist, who pretends to be a saint, isn’t one and often says nasty things on the field.

Slapping Sreesanth: In the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008, Harbhajan, who was leading the Mumbai Indians (MI) slapped Sreesanth after the match between MI and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in Mohali. Bhajji not only got fined his match fee for the game, but was suspended for the remainder of IPL and banned for five ODIs.

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