May 21 2013 Latest news:
by Tom Moore
Monday, July 23, 2012
EXCLUSIVE: India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh is hoping his stint at Essex will help him take at least a further 150 wickets for India.
The 32-year-old lost his place in the national side after a grade one abdominal muscle tear 12 months ago as the Indians were whitewashed by England.
Then a shin injury forced him out for a further three months and he is looking to win his place back, despite the riches of Twenty20 cricket proving a lure for many young cricketers.
“Test cricket will always be the biggest thing for me because as a cricketer you want to be judged by what you have done and what you are doing in Test cricket,” Harbhajan told London24.
“For me, Test cricket will always be really special and I can’t wait to get back into the Indian side by doing well and I hope to take 150 odd wickets for India and that should be good fun.
“I’ll work hard and do whatever I can from my side to get back into the Indian side and hopefully, with the grace of God I’ll be there soon and start winning games again for Team India.”
Pragyan Ojha was one of the fortunate beneficiaries and was helped by his performances for Surrey as the south Londoners won promotion back to Division One and Harbhajan wants to repeat the trick.
“This is the perfect opportunity for me,” the off-spinner explained. “We don’t play cricket in India at this point in time.
“England is a very good place to play cricket and the county circuit has helped a lot of players to redevelop their game and to learn about their game.
“It has helped me before and you learn every day in cricket, no matter what you have achieved.
“But still, every day is a new day. I go out to learn. You learn from your defeats. Every day I am learning.
“This is a challenge for me to do well here and obviously I am really looking forward for this challenge and get back to the India side.
“Playing first class cricket will help you become a better cricketer, no matter how many Tests you have played and how many wickets you have taken, how many scores you have scored.
“You can’t guarantee you’ll go and score another hundred or take five wickets on that day.
“That’s the beauty of this game – every day is a new challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
In 98 Tests for India, Harbhajan has taken 406 wickets with best figures of 8/84 against the great Australia side in 2001.
In one day cricket for his country, the off-spinner has taken 259 wickets at an average of 33 in 229 games.
The 32-year-old revealed that he wanted to play First Class cricket to shake off the rustiness when bowling.
“I wanted to bowl a lot of overs,” he said. “After I got injured last year here in England I didn’t get to bowl longer spells.
“I played a couple of Ranji Trophy [the first class competition in India] games and led the team but I wasn’t there.
“My fitness was not that great and had shin pain that kept me out for three months and it’s been a tough last year due to injuries and stuff, I lost my place in the Indian set up.
“Hopefully there will be no more injuries and I’ll bowl more and get into the rhythm and get back into the Indian side.”
Enjoyment is also something that the 32-year-old off-spinner is focusing on and he has not set himself any bowling targets.
Harbhajan explained: “I just want to enjoy this county stint because this is where I feel I can go and express myself and bowl lots of overs and get them under my belt before I start playing Test cricket for India or any form of cricket for India.
“For any cricketer it’s always nice to be going with the game.
“I’m playing matches here and I just want to continue doing what I’m doing and follow it with India Test cricket.”
However, Harbhajan has only had one long spell of bowling – a 28 over spell during Hampshire’s first innings at Chelmsford on July 19.
“Rain didn’t let me experience too much on the field but whatever I’ve got I’ve enjoyed it,” he explained.
“I bowled about 28 overs on Thursday and felt really good.
“I created a few chances but didn’t click and hopefully, I keep on creating chances and get them caught and the wicket column is going up so it’s been all right.
“I hope the weather stays good from here on in and take a few more wickets to take the team to the next level.”
Essex, who were beaten in dramatic fashion by Hampshire by a mere two runs in their previous County Championship clash, have their Twenty20 quarter final against Somerset on Tuesday before a Clydesdale Bank 40 clash at Worcestershire on Saturday.
They return to Chelmsford on August 1 for a Championship match against Leicestershire.