Bhajji looks to turn it on against old foe

New Delhi, Feb. 1 -- A dozen springs ago, a 20-year-old off-spinner, known until then for disciplinary issues and a suspect action, received an unexpected recall to lead the spin attack against the all-conquering Aussies in the absence of the injured Anil Kumble.

Prior to that, Harbhajan Singh's best innings figures in eight Tests were three for 30. Against Australia in early 2001, he failed to bag a five only in the first of his five bowling efforts.

Since shining for long as one half of India's spin duo, he now waits for a recall, having flopped in the only Test he played out of the 12 India have featured in over the past 18 months.

That was in the second Test against England in Mumbai, his 99th. Still, he is hopeful of playing his 100th Test.

"It'll be a big day for me. Hope it happens in front of my home crowd in Mohali, with my contribution helping us beat Australia."

Given that the teams travel to Chennai and Hyderabad before Mohali, it is clear he isn't overly optimistic of breaking into the playing XI ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.

Harbhajan though will play for Rest of India against Ranji champions Mumbai in the Irani Cup starting on Feb 6.

"I'm trying to make the most of whatever opportunities are coming to me," he said on the sidelines of an event for his golf team here on Thursday. "Hopefully, if I do well, I'll make a comeback."

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Bhajji is still licking his lips at the prospect of taking on the relative rookies in a team against whom he has excelled at home.

Asked if the current Aussie side can match the 2001 lineup, Harbhajan said: "Not at all. Earlier, they had 11 match winners, from Langer to McGrath. It was a dream team... they were unbeatable at home and tough to defeat even when they were on tour.

This new team can be beaten even in their own backyard. We can win 4-0, but only if everyone works hard." That's being over-optimistic, given the recent Test series defeat against England.

Harbhajan's own form - in five Ranji matches this season, he took 16 wickets at an average of 32.25 - is poor.

He said: "Only the seamers got wickets as the ball moved, but that was only till lunch on the first day. After that, the pitches became flat."


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