Out of favor off-spinner Harbhajan Singh believes he has another five to six years of cricket left in him and hopes to be in the selectors mix when the Indian team is chosen for the Australia tour.
In an interview given to News 24 editor-in-chief Anurradha Prasad on her weekly show 'Aamne Samne', Harbhajan said: "I do have another five to six years of cricket in me. Picture Abhi Baaki Hai. I think I can still contribute to the side for some time. I don't know anything other than cricket and people know me for this only. It's my passion."
Known as Bhajji in Indian cricket circles, the off-spinner it is good for the team that new spinners are coming forward and performing well for the side.
"Competition is good for the side, I am not afraid of competition. If I was afraid of competition, I wouldn't have played international cricket for 13 years. If there is no competition, the level of the game will not rise. To take the team forward, we must have more options. If these guys can play for long time and develop, it will be good for the team. I welcome the inclusion of new guys in the team," he said.
On what he though were his chances of making it to the Indian squad for Australia, Harbhajan said: "My job is to play cricket and perform and not worry about selection, it's the selectors' job."
On being asked, what is it that brings out his best against Australia, he said, "I enjoy playing against Australia, they are still a very good side and tough competitors on the field. They are very aggressive and we need to be aggressive to counter them or they will start dominating you. I still remember the famous series in 2001 where I took 32 wickets in 3 tests and the Australian media gave me the name 'turbanator'. I go to the field to play cricket and not listen to abuses or sledging, if they say something, I will give it back."
Recalling the "Monkey Gate" affair on India's last tour Down Under (2007-08), Harbhajan said: "Something happened in that match where we might have had to bat again. I was batting with Sachin and made 66 and they didn't like the fact that a tail ender was scoring runs and not getting out, so they said something. I had to reply. I can't tell you on TV what they said and what I said, but it just happened, they provoked me."
Harbhajan also cleared the air on his relationship with former Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds, saying: "I share a very healthy relationship with Symonds. We have played together at Mumbai Indians. He told me he was not upset with me, but was annoyed with his team management who did not support him and blew the matter out of proportion."
On slapping S Sreesanth during IPL-1, Harbhajan said: "We were losing three matches on the trot and Sreesanth said something, and, I reacted wrongly. It was wrong on my part to do that and I apologised. I was ashamed and regretted afterwards. It was a very bad time for me, as I was banned. I take full responsibility for what happened back then."
Now, I have calmed down a lot, I was very aggressive in the beginning and used to react spontaneously. I am a very emotional and expressive person by nature. I have a lot of energy inside me and, I have realized how to use this energy best. Everyone learns from mistakes and I have also done that."
He also described his antics on the field as spontaneous and done with a sense of joy.
"Whether I take one wicket or ten, they are all for the country, and, that makes me happy. I express my happiness on the field as I am a very expressive person by nature," Harbhajan said.
He also recalled the tough time the senior players had Greg Chappell's tenure as coach.
"It was one of the worst phases of Indian cricket. He (Chappell) had divided the team completely. It is wrong to say that he got the youngsters their due, he only divided the team by creating insecurity in the team. I was insecure, Sachin was insecure. I was told if I took five wickets, only then will I play the next match. It was not a happy feeling in the team, and, if you compare it with Kirsten's tenure, the results will say everything. Now the team is united and happy."
On being asked about Suresh Raina's comment that "Chappell brought a lot of youngsters in the team and made Dhoni captain, Harbhajan said, "Youngsters always get chances to play in the team, Chappell can't take credit for this. He did not make Dhoni the captain."
Harbhajan described Dhoni as best ever Indian captain he has played under.
"He has a cool head and is very calculative. He is intelligent and knowledgeable. He reads a lot about everything, not just cricket. He reads on everything from a bullet to the engine of an air plane," the off-spinner said.
Harbhajan said that rumors of a rift between him and Dhoni over an ad campaign were untrue.
He said: "It was an issue between me and the company that created that ad featuring Dhoni. We discussed the issue and Dhoni told me that he did not know the story line of the ad or he would have not done it."
Harbhajan said he missed former leg-spinner Anil Kumble.
"Anil Bhai used to create so much pressure from the other end that it became easy for me to claim wickets from the other. I miss him but consult him whenever I need some help," he said.
Bhajji said he was praying for Sachin to complete his 100th century at his home ground in Mumbai.
"I am praying he does it in Mumbai. There is no one better than him. I really hope he does it in Mumbai. He deserves it at his home ground," said Harbhajan.
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