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‘Win restored people’s faith’

Harbhajan Singh, who became the first Indian to take a hattrick in Test cricket, at the Eden, 10 years ago, recently spoke to The Telegraph.

The following are excerpts

Eden Gardens and March 15, 2001...

Can’t forget that Test, against Australia, lekin tarikh bhool gaya.

Defeating Australia after being made to follow-on

It raised the team’s confidence... Made us believe that we could win from any situation... As we speak, poora match yaad aa raha hai.

Turning point for Indian cricket...

Most definitely... After that Test, our graph began to go up... The match-fixing scandal had broken out less than a year before that and, generally, the public had been disillusioned... Our win restored people's faith in cricket, brought them back to the game... As a team, we couldn’t have delivered at a better time... Not that we could afford to fail then.

A comeback series for him

It was... I had to do my bit, otherwise... As you know, I picked up 13 wickets at the Eden and finished (the series) with 32.

Most memorable dismissal...

(Laughs) That of Shane Warne, my hattrick victim... After that, I got calls from the high and mighty... The then Prime Minister (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) sent me a very kind letter of appreciation, which has been framed and given pride of place at my house in Jalandhar... The phone never stopped ringing in the hotel room and my roommate, (Ashish) Nehra, must have gone crazy.

His preparations before the series

I’d bowled a lot at the nets... I worked hard and got rewarded. That’s been a lesson.

A game-changing move he remembers...

(V.V.S.) Laxman’s promotion to No.3 in the second innings... It was a bold move, for Rahul (Dravid) had been the No.3 for a number of years... Eventually, he came at No.6 and must have been wanting to prove a point. We all know what happened after that.

Team having been superstitious

Sourav (Ganguly, the captain) sat in a towel, I think, outside the dressing room throughout Day IV... It was the same the next morning... In fact, all of us also went back to the same chairs! We kept counting our lead.

If there was a debate within on the target to be set...

There was, because we were wary of Matthew Hayden and the others... After the declaration, Australia needed to get 384. They lost by 171 runs... I should add that we’d been quite worried about the light fading quickly at the Eden.

Lastly... The difference that Test made to him

It made me feel like a winner, gave me the sense that I belonged at the highest level... My confidence grew. Made me feel like an achiever, encouraged me to keep aiming big.

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