The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Harbhajan: I only played in Dhaka at Sourav’s request
- Kaif approached by Derbyshire; Counties interested inYuvraj

Calcutta: It’s no secret that the Board persuaded Sourav Ganguly to undertake the Dhaka trip despite a bad back. What isn’t known is that the Team India captain himself did some persuading: It was at his “request” that Harbhajan Singh didn’t pull out (of the tri-series) on grounds of fitness.

“Actually, I’d asked Dada (Sourav) to inform the Board that I needed to rest my spinning fingers… That (because of pain) even I had to skip Dhaka. Dada, however, said I must not opt out as five players had already made themselves unavailable. Then, he promised I wouldn’t have to play all matches.

“Of course, I could have personally spoken to the Board president, but decided against doing as Dada had a point about our attack having been weakened (by pull outs). Moreover, main unko kabhi naa nahin kar sakta hoon,” Harbhajan told The Telegraph, when contacted on his cellphone.

The key off-spinner, 22, has suffered “wear and tear” in the region between the index and middle fingers of his right hand.

“If I don’t rest for two months, I may have to undergo surgery. Today, therefore, I’ve got to think of my career and that’s why I’m not going to Lancashire — not now, at least,” he added.

Had circumstances been different, Harbhajan would have been in Manchester by now, keeping Stuart Law company in the overseas players’ bench at Old Trafford.

Significantly, Lancashire will wait “four-six weeks” before deciding on a replacement. This got confirmed when the County’s chief executive, Jim Cumbes, was contacted exclusively Thursday evening.

The star offie, by the way, isn’t going to review matters till he has had adequate rest.

“The pain started during the home series versus the West Indies (late last year) and resurfaced in New Zealand. I was given pain-killers and a cortisone shot… The pain, though, returned during the World Cup. Given the importance of the event, I had to carry on,” he revealed.

According to Harbhajan, he was referred to a specialist by (physio) Andrew Leipus on the eve of the World Cup final, in Johannesburg, and advised “complete rest”.

“Right now, I’m religiously doing the exercises prescribed by the specialist… That and a break should repair the damage caused by non-stop cricket for the past two years,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that Mohammed Kaif has been “approached” by Derbyshire as a mid-summer replacement for Shahid Afridi. Michael Di Venuto is the County’s other overseas pro.

Apparently, a couple of Counties seem “interested” in Yuvraj Singh, too. In fact, it won’t surprise if Derbyshire turn to him should negotiations with Kaif fail.

With a big question mark over Harbhajan, only two Indians — Jawagal Srinath (Durham) and Virender Sehwag (Leicestershire) — are sure to figure on the County circuit. Srinath, though, has just been contracted for the first couple of months.

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