Out-of-favour India spinner Harbhajan Singh narrated an incident that helped him gel with teammates on his Test debut against Australia in Bengaluru in 1998. During the second day of first Test between India and South Africa in Visakhapatnam, the official broadcasters aired a package in which Harbhajan was seen reminiscing about his first outing with the Indian Test team.
Harbhajan spoke about the language barrier that made him feel uneasy in the team meeting before the first day of match. The off-spinner revealed he was helped by then skipper Mohammad Azharuddin.
“Before my debut Test, the players were speaking in English in the dressing room during a team meeting. I didn’t understand much as I couldn’t speak the language back then. I was asked to speak something but I told them I couldn’t speak in English,” Harbhajan told the official broadcasters.
“That is when Azharduddin came up to me and asked me what the problem was. I said I cannot speak the language. He asked me which language I was comfortable with and I said Punjabi. He then asked me to speak in Punjabi during the team meeting,” he added.
Harbhajan took his maiden bow in the third Test of the 1998 series against Australia in Bengaluru. India had already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series courtesy of their comprehensive wins in the first two Tests – Chennai (179 runs) and Kolkata (an innings and 219 runs).
In the first innings Harbhajan scalped two wickets but went wicketless in the second essay. India lost the match by eight wickets despite Sachin Tendulkar’s brilliant 177 in the first innings. Michael Kasprowicz was adjudged the man of the match for his 5/28 in the second innings.
Since his debut Test, Harbhajan has come a long way and is regarded as one of the greatest bowlers ever to don the Indian jersey. He has featured in 236 ODIs, 103 Tests and 28 T20Is for India and has scalped 269, 417 and 25 wickets respectively. Harbhajan was also part of the Indian teams that lifted the ICC WT20 in 2007 and ICC World Cup in 2011.