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Player battles: Ricky Ponting vs Harbhajan Singh

Looking back at one of the bitterest rivalries in world cricket.

A rivalry born out of spite?

India vs Australia has always been bruising, brilliant showdowns. Particularly, at the start of the new century, the showdowns produced some memorable cricket, and along with every showdown came a fresh wave of controversies.

At the forefront, of course, were a loud-mouthed, boisterous off-spinner and one of the best batsmen of that generation. Harbhajan Singh and Ricky Ponting have always been at loggerheads whenever India has taken on the mighty Australians, and more often than not, the Punjabi spinner has emerged triumphant.

The two gave us (the cricket fans) the bitterest of rivalries at a time when India was slowly establishing itself as one of the top cricketing nations. Here we take a look at their unforgettable battle on and off the cricket pitch.

#1 Duels

It all started back in 1998 when India took on Australia in a day/night ODI in Sharjah. Harbhajan, who was only 17 at that time, was playing in what was his fourth ODI match. Ricky Ponting had advanced down the track but ended up completely missing the line of the ball.

Nayan Mongia made no mistake and uprooted the bails. Harbhajan marched down the wicket celebrating the wicket and confronted his adversary, shouting and giving him specific directions back to the pavilion.

Although Mongia rushed in and held the spindly spinner back, the damage had been done. Ponting, for his part, responded by mouthing some not so nice words at the young Indian and a shoulder barge before making his way back to the dressing room.

That marked the beginning of the rivalry that would enthral cricket fans for over a decade. The two have faced each other a total of 47 times – 14 times in Test matches and 33 times in 50-over matches.

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