Veteran Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has turned 40 on Friday. Widely regarded as one of the leading off-spinners in the modern-day game, Harbhajan has been a mainstay in the national side for more than a decade, since making his debut in 1998. He as appeared for India in 103 Tests and 236 ODIs, taking 417 wickets in the longest format, while dismissing batsmen on 269 occasions in the fifty-over game.
His 417 dismissals are the second-highest by an off-spinner in the world. He only trails Muttiah Muralitharan, who holds the record for most wickets by a bowler in the history of cricket.
Harbhajan didn't have a smooth start to his international career as his arrival was marred with criticism over his bowling action, in addition to his disciplinary issues. However, Sourav Ganguly entrusted him with replacing leg-spinner Anil Kumble after the veteran bowler faced an injury ahead of the 2001 Test series against Australia. Harbhajan rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion, taking 32 wickets in the three-match series. He also became the first Indian bowler to take a Test hat-trick during the second match in Kolkata, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest games in the history of Indian cricket.
While Kumble remained India's first-choice spinner overseason, his partnership with Harbhajan Singh during home Tests led the side to many memorable victories over the next few years. In the 2003 World Cup, Harbhajan was used as the first-choice spinner. He took 11 wickets in 10 games as India reached the final of the tournament.
Over the next few years, he continued to lead the Indian spin-attack alongside Anil Kumble. Harbhajan's form took a hit during the era of Greg Chappell as coach of the Indian team. He recently opened up on his regressed mental state during the time of Chappell's reign in Indian cricket. He failed to take a single wicket during India's disastrous outing in the 2007 World Cup but made a formidable comeback when he returned to the side for the inaugural WT20 later in the year.
🌟 Second-most wickets by an India spinner in Tests – 417— ICC (@ICC) July 3, 2020
🌟 Second-most wickets by an India spinner in ODIs – 265
🌟 First India player to take a Test hat-trick
🌟 A @cricketworldcup winner 🥇
Happy 40th birthday to Harbhajan Singh! pic.twitter.com/r5qYelmPSm
Harbhajan played a key role in the side's historic triumph in the tournament, and it kickstarted a revival of his career across all the formats of the game. In 2008, he played a key role in India's win over Australia in the four-match home Test series. He was the joint-highest wicket-taker alongside Ishant Sharma in the series as India clinched a 2-0 victory over Ricky Ponting's side.
He enjoyed much success over the years and one of the greatest moments in his career came in 2011, when India lifted the World Cup at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Harbhajan played all the matches of the tournament.
However, his form began to decline after the tournament and he was soon removed from the squad. He did make a comeback during the 2015-16 season for the side under Virat Kohli's captaincy, but failed to make a mark. He has since failed to break into the side.
In the Indian Premier League, Harbhajan Singh had a successful stint with Mumbai Indians for nine years before joining Chennai Super Kings in 2018. In his very first season at the Chennai franchise, Harbhajan lifted the trophy.