Suspect once, hero thrice
Ajit goes Rs 1 crore up on Arun
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, March 11: 
A little over a year ago, Harbhajan Singh was less-than-honourably discharged from the National Cricket Academy.

Three years ago, the off-spinner’s action was deemed “suspect” and he underwent “corrective sessions” with Fred Titmus in England.

By Harbhajan’s own admission, that phase specially was “worse than a nightmare”.

For a while, then, it had even appeared the Jalandhar-born Harbhajan, one of five siblings, was the latest enfant terrible.

Today the 20-year-old became India’s maiden hat-trick-achiever in Tests (the 26th bowler overall; hat-trick No.29), a feat which brought India right back on Day-I of the second Test, versus Australia, at the Eden.

By claiming Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist (a dubious S.K. Bansal verdict, mind you) and Shane Warne off successive deliveries, Harbhajan in fact recorded the first-ever (Test) hat-trick in India. That, too, against a team on an unprecedented roll.

[Chetan Sharma and Kapil Dev are credited with hat-tricks in ODIs.]

The on-going Test is the 181st on Indian soil. And, till it was pointed out, the patka-sporting Harbhajan wasn’t aware he had actually flighted his way to history around 3.50 in the afternoon.

Woh haadsa (discharge from the Academy) jhatka jaisa tha... My confidence went for a six and it didn’t help that not much later, my father (Sardar Sardev Singh) passed away...”

Overwhelmed by the memory of his father, Harbhajan was close to tears. He quickly calmed himself though and, while speaking to The Telegraph, dedicated the achievement to his father (“wish he was around”), who succumbed to hepatitis-B.

Interacting with the media in general, Harbhajan’s first reaction was: “Meri mehnat ka phal hai... It’s a reward for everything I’ve done... God has been kind.”

He added: “With Anilbhai not available, it’s up to the less experienced spinners like me to perform... Somehow, I always felt this could be my day... Bas line aur length ko theek rakhna tha.”

In his moment of glory, Harbhajan listed the support of many. From coach John Wright to Sachin Tendulkar to captain Sourav Ganguly. (“Anilbhai”) Kumble, too. “When I was on the hat-trick, it’s Sachinbhai who advised I stay cool and bowl the same line... Hona hoga to ho jayega, Sachinbhai ne kaha... Jaisa aap ne dekha, hat-trick ho hi gaya.

Did his heart miss a beat when the Warne catch was referred to third umpire Samir Bandekar?

Smiling, this time, Harbhajan answered: “Well, I was hoping it was out... Waise bhi, main hamesha wicket lena chahta hoon. That’s my approach.”

As Harbhajan prepared to leave the Eden for the Taj, he remarked he would first call “mummy (Avtar Kaur)”.

What “mummy” would have said is predictable, but what about one Ashley Mallet? The other day, after all, the Australian stalwart had announced Harbhajan’s “technique was inhibiting progress”.



New Delhi, March 11: 
The battle over Balco turned into a race for one-upmanship with the Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh offering to buy the aluminium company at Rs 1 crore more than the Rs 551.5 crore paid by the auction-winner, Sterlite Industries.

The unusual offer came after disinvestment minister Arun Shourie dared Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi to find a buyer who would match Jogi’s valuation of Balco. Jogi had claimed that Balco was worth Rs 5,000-crore, prompting Shourie to throw down the gauntlet. Before the controversy had erupted, Jogi’s government had offered over Rs 400 crore for a 51 per cent stake in Balco.

The disinvestment case is coming up for hearing in the Supreme Court tomorrow. In Bangalore, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the Balco controversy would not affect the government’s resolve to disinvest in other companies.

But the Congress indicated that it would keep the Balco row alive, charging Shourie with misleading the Supreme Court and Parliament. The party also accused the new company management of “illegally” closing down the Korba unit without declaring a lockout. However, the management has contested this.

Jogi arrived in the capital and briefed Sonia Gandhi about the Balco situation. The Congress convened a press conference on the issue, but Jogi did not attend. Instead, AICC spokesman Jaipal Reddy led the offensive. Congress sources conceded that Jogi’s offer to better Sterlite’s price is more “symbolic” than practical. Jogi’s detractors within the party, mainly from Madhya Pradesh, termed it a “political gimmick”.

Reddy said Shourie misled Parliament when the minister said he took the Chhattisgarh government into confidence before the sell-off deal was struck. Reddy said Shourie was wrong in stating that he sought the state government’s cooperation in maintaining law and order through a letter faxed on the night of March 6.

“That was Id holiday and the letter could be replied to only on March 7. Apparently, Shourie made a pretence of a request to the Chhattisgarh government so as to go to the Supreme Court with a grievance,” Reddy said. The Supreme Court had ordered the state not to disrupt the flow of essential services to the Balco plant.




Maximum: 34.8°C (+2)
Minimum: 19°C (-1)



Relative humidity

Max: 91%
Min: 32%


Partly cloudy sky. Maximum temperature likely to be around 35°C
Sunrise: 5.53 am
Sunset: 5.40 pm

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