Despite their many run-ins and altercations on the field, Harbhajan Singh and Shoaib Akhtar shared largely cordial relations off it. In an example of their camaraderie, Harbhajan Singh shared an amusing story on the eve of the 2011 World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan.
Shoaib Akhtar had apparently asked Harbhajan Singh for some tickets for his family for the much-anticipated clash between the two neighbour in Mohali. Harbhajan Singh promptly arranged the same.
The Pakistani pacer, in his famous tongue-in-cheek way, asked the off-spinner for the same number of tickets for the final as well. Harbhajan Singh, however, retorted that it would be India, and not Pakistan, who will vie for the trophy, so Akhtar should come to the game as a 'spectator' only.
In an interview with Sports Today, Harbhajan Singh narrated the anecdote, saying:
"Shoaib Akhtar told me the night before the match that he wants some tickets for his family and relatives from Pakistan. So I said no problem, and I called PCA (Punjab Cricket Association) and somehow arranged some four tickets for him. When I went to give them to him, he said 'It will be great if you can arrange four tickets for the final as well.'"
Harbhajan Singh continued:
"I asked what he would do with them. He asserted that they (Pakistan) were going to play the final in Mumbai. I replied 'If you are going to Mumbai, then where are we going? India will play the final, and you should come and watch. I will give you four more tickets as well, no problem, you come and comfortably spectate the game.'"
Interestingly, the Rawalpindi Express didn't feature in Pakistan's playing XI in the semifinal. Meanwhile, Harbhajan Singh led India's bowling attack from the front, taking 2 wickets for 43 runs to help India win by 29 runs.
Harbhajan Singh reveals conversation with Shoaib Akhtar after India's semi-final win
Harbhajan Singh also shared details about the conversation he had with Shoaib Akhtar after India's semifinal win. The-40-year-old said in this regard:
"After the game, I told him 'if you still want to come and watch the game in Wankhade on 2nd of April against Sri Lanka, you are more than welcome to come'. But he said 'no man, I should head back now'."
India won the final to end a 28-year wait for the World Cup title. Harbhajan Singh picked up the wicket of Tillakaratne Dilshan in his spell of 1-50 in the final, concluding the tournament with nine wickets in as many games.