Harbhajan Singh will turn out for two-time IPL winner Kolkata Knight Riders in the league’s 14th season. Harbhajan has featured in Mumbai Indians’ three IPL wins, and also played for the three-time winner, Chennai Super Kings, in 2018 and 2019.
Harbhajan has played 160 matches (136 for MI and 24 for CSK) and taken 150 wickets to occupy fifth position for all-time highest wicket-takers in the IPL behind Lasith Malinga (170), Amit Mishra (160), Piyush Chawla (156), and Dwayne Bravo (153).
Ahead of his maiden stint with KKR in the IPL in 2021, Harbhajan Singh shed light on the upcoming campaign and more in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda.
Excerpts from the interview with Harbhajan Singh below -
Q. You (Harbhajan Singh) have played for two teams in 12 seasons and taken 150 wickets. The numbers put you among the top IPL wicket takers. It must have been very challenging for a finger spinner in Twenty20 format, wasn't it?
A. It’s not so. It’s just the perception of the people who think that the finger spinners cannot bowl in this format. One has to see the situation. You know that the batsmen are going to come hard at you. They would look to play the big shots. They would look to hit sixes. The best option in Twenty20 format is to try and get the batsman out. If you can get the batsman out, brilliant. If you are successful, you can put pressure on the batsman in your next two overs. The new batsman takes a little bit time before he gets going. Whether it’s a finger spinner, any spinner or any bowler, the best option is to take wickets. And not give singles and twos.
Q. Martin Crowe surprised everyone starting with the finger spinner in the 1992 50-over World Cup. And now off-spinners bowl a lot on the Twenty20 power play (in the first six overs).
A. I can say that when I bowled for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) for two seasons, they used me to take wickets: They did not use me to bowl two overs, give away ten or 12 runs in the power play. So, my job was to take wickets upfront. I was happy the way things were going for me, the way I bowled for them. And almost in all the games I was picking wickets. Even for Mumbai Indians, I was doing the same, going for wickets.
Q. You turned out for MI in the first 10 seasons of the League. The mindset shift to represent another team must have been tough. You took 127 wickets for MI.
A. It’s tough after playing for such a long time for MI. It was difficult for me to play the first match against MI in 2018. I was playing for CSK, which meant a new jersey, a new dressing room and so on. I just wanted to get through with the first game against MI. It was very difficult to adjust.
Q. Are you happy with 150 wickets so far, you did not play the 13th in the UAE last year. Your average is 26.45 and runs conceded an over is 7.05?
A. I am happy. Things could have been even more better, or it could have been worse. The numbers are not bad. If people say finger spinners cannot bowl (in Twenty20), they can look at the stats and see how well I have bowled at the Wankhede. A lot of people have gone for runs there:
Q. You are now with KKR. There are six spinners in the squad -- yourself, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Pawan Negi, Varun Chakravarthy and Shakib Al Hasan. A tough ask for Eoin Morgan to pick from.
A. That’s for Eoin to decide. Why should I brainstorm on that? Whoever plays, the aim should be to do well for the team. Whoever gets picked, the team should win. That’s what matters the most.
Q. Will you have a word or two with Kuldeep Yadav, he did not have a particularly good series against England in Pune.
A. Yes, of course. Once we get into the net sessions, I will be happy to do that. When someone is not going through a good patch, he needs someone around him to help him out, someone to talk to, someone to push him a little more, help him get back into the rhythm. It’s all about him. He has done well and has won matches for India. It’s just a matter of confidence which he can get in one or two games.
Q. How tough is it going to be to get the confidence back for a left-arm unorthodox bowler?
A. It’s not going to be difficult. He has been practicing all his life whatever he has done till now. He will regain confidence by taking wickets upfront.