Calcutta: Like almost every player, Harbhajan Singh too has his favourite ground. There are no prizes for guessing that it’s Eden Gardens, where his devastating spell had earned India a memorable victory over Australia in March 2001.
Such is the off-spinner’s fondness for the stadium that he compares it with his mother.
He may be out of favour with Team India at present, but Harbhajan believes he can turn things around at the Eden with a performance worth significance for Punjab in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy. Who knows, an impact-making performance before the national selectors may again bring him back in the reckoning… Harbhajan himself is pretty confident that the Eden won’t return him empty-handed.
“Whenever I have played at the Eden, I’ve done quite well, both for India and the Mumbai Indians… Eden’s blessings have always been there for me… It’s been like my mom.
“Hopefully, I will continue to do well here… I also hope that the team, too, will go on to win the tournament,” Harbhajan said after a practice session ahead of their quarter final tie against Railways on Wednesday.
In 13 international appearances so far at the Eden, the off-spinner has taken 49 wickets, figures that are impressive to say the least.
The ‘Turbanator’, though, doesn’t seem too worried whether the selectors are taking a note of his performance in the domestic circuit. All what matters to him at this moment is leading Punjab successfully.
“Look, I’m here to represent my team... Being the leader, I must do well. But having said that, I feel I’ve set my standard over the years. It doesn’t really matter how many people are watching and taking a note of my performance… I’ve been working hard and if I perform consistently, things will automatically fall into place… That’s it.
“I see every game as an opportunity… These tournaments are a platform for everyone to enhance their prospects of playing for India,” Harbhajan explained.
According to Harbhajan, the Punjab team features quite a few youngsters who are knocking at the doors of the national team. “All I tell the youngsters is not to be shy of expressing themselves and trying out new things… I believe they do have the potential to play at the top level. Players like Siddhart Kaul, Mandeep Singh and Gurkeerat Singh Mann have been doing a fantastic job for us,” he emphasised.
With the Eden wicket helping the seamers, Punjab will face a stiff test against the Railways, whose pace trio of Amit Mishra, Krishnakant Upadhyay and Anureet Singh looked very impressive in their win against Baroda. For Punjab, Siddhart is the in-form bowler, having taken 14 wickets from five matches in the zonal round. Harbhajan himself has bowled with discipline snaring seven wickets from five matches.
Yuvraj Singh will of course be the one to watch out for. He will be eager have some runs under his belt in the lead up to the World T20. He batted well in the zonal round and averages 76.50 after four matches.
Arriving in the city on Tuesday morning, Yuvraj headed straight to the Eden from the airport to train with his teammates and practised for more than an hour.
Harbhajan praised Yuvraj for his dedication and commitment in turning up for Punjab, at a time his mind is expected to be engrossed with the upcoming World T20, beginning next week.
“Yuvraj is a match-winner… It’s very nice of him to come over and play this game. He knows the importance of this game. I’m sure he’ll deliver and win it for us. All of us hope he gets a big hundred and a couple of wickets as well.”