MUMBAI: Harbhajan Singh is back in the Test fold. The 32-year-old off-spinner was on Sunday selected to India’s squad for the first two home Tests against Australia and may play his 100th match at Chennai, where the series begins on February 22.
Also see: Harbhajan leads ROI to Irani win | Gambhir dropped
What made the occasion doubly joyous for Harbhajan was the fact that he had also led Rest of India to victory in the Irani Cup match against Mumbai. Speaking later, he said he was looking to resume the battle with old foes Australia, against whom he has a decidedly good record in Tests.
“It’s always nice to play against the Aussies. They have relatively new line up and a lot of left-handers who have not played Tests in India. It will be a challenge for them and we’ll put them under pressure from the first day.”
Harbhajan will join R. Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha as the spinners on duty against Australia. He was dropped after India lost the Kolkata Test to England last year and was since plying his trade for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy.
“Comebacks are always hard. You need to keep believing in yourself. You never know when you’re playing in the domestic games whether you’ll be picked or not. But I worked hard in the last season and it paid off. Numbers don’t always tell you the correct story in cricket. But I think I bowled well for Punjab in the last season.
Rest of India defeated Mumbai on first innings lead, a result brought about chiefly by batsmen Suresh Raina, M. Vijay and Ambati Rayudu.
Harbhajan bowled well - particularly in the second innings - in the match for five wickets.
“This (Irani Cup) was an important match because big names were playing and it gives you the platform to make a comeback into the India team. I’m happy to be in the Test team again.
“It was important for us to do well in the first innings and get the lead. Mumbai’s only chance after that was to bowl us out cheaply in the second innings, but we batted well; Raina especially batted brilliantly in both the innings,” he added.
Harbhajan said he enjoyed bowling on the Wankhede pitch.
“There is some bounce in the track. Most of the domestic games I played last year were at Mohali where the wicket has a fair bit of grass. This (Wankhede) is a true wicket and there is always something for the bowlers. It was also good to bowl against batsmen like Wasim Jaffer, who is very good against spin.”
Harbhajan wished Rest of India’s and Delhi’s Shikhar Dhawan, who was selected to the Test squad as the third opener, the best of luck.
“Dhawan has been scoring runs on the domestic circuit for a long time. He is still young and I’m happy he has been selected. I hope he does well.”