Kolkata: Harbhajan Singh, one of the elder statesmen of this IPL at 40, says that he doesn’t have anything left to prove to anybody. It’s more about his willingness to continue with the sport, which had been his ‘‘life,’’ that has brought the veteran off spinner back in the fold - this time in the purple-and-gold jersey for Kolkata Knight Riders.
At a time when most of his peers have signed off from the game to move into administration (Zaheer Khan) or politics (Gautam Gambhir), ‘Bhajji’ - one of the most popular characters in the cricket fraternity - have opted for the bump-and-grind of a IPL team’s routine for the 2021 season. It became quite a talking point in the commentary box on Sunday that the owner of 417 Test wickets was actually playing in a competitive game after 699 days.
‘‘Yes, it felt like I was starting all over again and I was initally a bit nervous too. Cricket had been my life and I had a great time being out there,’’ said one of the most celebrated off spinners in the game - for whom this is the third IPL franchise after a glorious decade with Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.
Speaking at a virtual press conference on Monday, Harbhajan fielded the obvious question of playing till 40 on a pragmatic note: ‘‘See, I have nothing left to prove to anyone. It’s a small expectation to myself that as long as I can stay fit, I hope to continue playing for a few more years. However, who knows about tomorrow?’’
The veteran spinner revealed that the power of yoga helped him a lot in retaining his fitness in the pre-season period. Asked what was his preparation regime, Harbhajan said he preferred to keep things simple: ‘‘It was a strict watch on diet, spending a lot of time at the nets and yoga. The power of yoga is often not that appreciated but I find it unbelievably good - it keeps me flexible and gets me going. It’s the way forward for me.’’
During KKR’s first game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, skipper Eoin Morgan had handed over the ball to Harbhajan Singh to bowl the first over - when he almost got the rival skipper David Warner out. Asked about his match-ups with the left-handed Warner, Harbhajan felt that much is often made these days about off spinners bowling mostly to southpaws or vice-versa: ‘‘I think we are trying to complicate a simple game with plans like an off spinner not bowling to a right hander or a left arm orthodox spinner not bowling a left-hander. The game has remained the same and batsmen still get out in the same ways - either by trying to lift a spinner to deep mid wicket, getting bowled or caught and bowled,’’ he said.
How has he been helping the KKR’s varied spin attack in his capacity as a bowler-mentor? ‘‘I had been talking to them and helping in any which way they try to pick my brains. I have spoken to the batsmen also on how to deal with the spinners,’’ he said.
Harbhajan also backed Kuldeep Yadav, their chinaman bowler strongly, as the Indian bowler had been lacking in confidence in recent times. ‘‘Kuldeep had been a good matchwinner and he’s got actually better. He’s a hard worker - things like these (drought of wickets) happen and I am sure he will come out of this,’’ he said.
Finally, who are the three spinners who will shine in this IPL? ‘‘Well, we will have to name Rashid Khan. Then it should be me (with a smile), I think all our spinners have the potential to so well,’’ he added.