The Indian tour of the West Indies may have passed by without a blip for the most part but for one man, the pressure was on as he went on to pass the historic 400 Test wickets mark.
For Harbhajan Singh, achieving a place in that elite club that is occupied by fellow Indian bowlers, Kapil Dev ( 434 Test wickets) and Anil Kumble (619 Test wickets) is a rather special journey, particularly since only two other bowlers in international cricket are part of it – Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan with 800 wickets and Australia’s Shane Warne with 708 wickets. That is a pretty special place, particularly for spinners who have superseded their more famous counterparts in the fast bowlers.
At thirty-one years of age, Harbhajan Singh is the only bowler still in the running. And while no one is betting yet on whether Harbhajan Singh, who crossed 400 Test wickets in the third Test of the India West Indies series in Dominica, will overhaul, the off spinner admitted that since his debut in 1998, the road had been a hard grind for him and that he knew that it had taken him longer than desired, ninety-six Tests, to cross that milestone. He, however, reiterated that he hoped the road ahead would be much easier as he looked to pocket at least two hundred more wickets before hanging up his boots.
Indeed Harbhajan Singh’s career took off with the thirty-one wickets he took in the home series against Australia in 2001, the series that Harbhajan Singh is sometimes forgotten because of V.V.S. Laxman’s heroics at Eden Gardens. However, Harbhajan Singh has seen a career graph that has peaked and dipped with alacrity. Harbhajan acknowledged that carrying forward his father’s dream after the latter’s demise was a difficult task but he felt that he had achieved an important stage in his career with this historic moment.
Harbhajan Singh has been a controversial figure at the very least, his on field outbursts perhaps overshadowing his success and will continue to do so when he does retire. However, this achievement puts him in stellar company and no one will be able to deny the say Harbhajan Singh has had on Indian cricket. Harbhajan Singh did not fail to mention Ricky Ponting, the former Australian captain, as one of his choice wickets.
The road, however, has not got easier despite his thirteen year international cricket career stint. Since the retirement of the leg spinner and former Indian captain, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh was clearly the heir apparent to the lead spinner role. However, his wicket taking form has not always been something to write home about and Bhajji, as he is popularly known, is also aware of the fact. Shouldering such immense responsibility without having a regular spinner in tandem could not have been easy.
Harbhajan’s career has taken another twist in the past year when he scored two back to back Test centuries after his maiden Test century against New Zealand in India’s home series, showing off the maturity of Harbhajan Singh the batsman over the bowler. However, there is little argument that going forward India will need Harbhajan Singh to spin them to success in his exalted role and with the achievement of this milestone, the pressure on him just went up a notch with Kapil Dev, the original 400 Test wicket barrier-breaking man, in sight as India are on the brink of their tour of England.