New Delhi: It's hard to be in the wilderness for more than two years but Harbhajan Singh was always "very confident" of once again donning the Indian cricket team's jersey and termed his latest comeback a "fresh beginning" in a career that has spanned over 16 years.
He is getting ready to come out all guns blazing in the one-off Test in Bangladesh, his first since 2013.
"It feels like a fresh beginning for me. It's a new innings which I want to start on a confident note and make the best possible use of the chance that I have got," an elated Harbhajan told PTI in an exclusive interview after he was recalled for the Bangladesh tour.
Harbhajan Singh at the Wankhede Stadium. File Pic/BCCI
"I worked hard on my bowling, on the areas that I felt I needed to work on. I had the blessings and good wishes of all those who loved me and were there by my side," said the 34-year-old, who has 413 wickets from 101 Test matches and is only the third Indian behind Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev.
The 'Turbanator' earned his recall exactly two years two months and 15 days after he had last played for India against Australia at Hyderabad in March 2013.
"For me, there is nothing more precious than the India jersey. For the past two years, I have been working hard for this day. Not for a single day, nor for a single moment did I have a feeling that I won't play for India again.
"Yes, there would be team selections and I would eagerly wait for it. At the end of the day, it was all about hard work and there are no shortcuts," said the experienced off-spinner, who has taken 16 wickets for Mumbai Indians in IPL-8. Did the thought of retirement ever cross his mind as reported in certain sections of the media, the feisty bowler replied, "At this point of time, I am ready to play for nother four to five years. I am confident that I could represent India in all formats to the best of my abilities."
Harbhajan's bowling has been praised by one and all during the season and many felt that it has been the best that he has bowled in over the last eight editions of IPL. Asked about it and Harbhajan was quick to retort, "I got 24 wickets in the 2013 edition which Mumbai Indians won and 14 wickets in the last edition apart from 16 in this edition. Was I bowling badly in 2013 when I got 24 wickets in IPL? I don't see it like that. If people feel that I am bowling at my best in IPL this season, I accept it with all humility. I have constantly worked on my bowling and believe that I have evolved as a bowler."
"Yes, there have been a few changes I have done consciously. The ball is coming out nicely from the hand and being slower through the air helped me getting more revolutions on the ball. That in turn can enable a bowler to fool the batsmen in flight," said Harbhajan, who dismissed Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni off successive deliveries to turn the match decisively for Mumbai Indians last night.
He got a lot of encouragement from the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble -- two people he has always looked upto for inspiration and motivation. "They would always have encouraging words for me. You can talk about your game with these legends.
Sachin kept on telling me that I have it in me to play for India again and I should always have self belief. When it comes from a legend like him, it means a lot." He is only 21 shy of equalling Kapil Dev's second highest Indian tally of 434 Test victims but the man with close to 700 international scalps across three formats doesn't want to look at records.
"My job is to contribute to the best of my abilities for my country. I have never played for records and it won't change as long as I am playing competitive cricket," he concluded.