Inside the psyche of Harbhajan Singh

MI’s veteran spinner opens up about his bowling mantra

Mumbai 07 May 2014
Tempers flared, emotions erupted, fists were pumped and there was a lot of aggression. Wankhede Stadium witnessed it all when the Mumbai Indians took on the Royal Challengers Bangalore with the home side winning the contest by 19 runs. The Kieron Pollard-Mitchell Starc saga is likely to be the talking point for a few days, but no one can take credit away from the Mumbai Indians who thrived under pressure and registered their second consecutive win at home.

A multi-dimensional pace attack, complemented by a lone spinner in Harbhajan Singh, helped Mumbai Indians put up a clinical performance defending 187 on their home turf against a strong RCB line-up. If it weren’t for Bhajji’s timely strikes to send both RCB openers packing, few would have backed the Mumbai Indians to win the contest. In this chat with, Harbhajan Singh speaks about today’s eventful game and also the challenges a spinner has to face during pressure situations in T20s.

Excerpts from his interview:

Did you give Kieron Pollard a cold drink after the first innings?

(Laughs) I did not meet Pollard after the incident. Hopefully, both the players shake hands and get things sorted.

With two back-to-back wins at home, Wankhede is turning into a fortress for the Mumbai Indians this year too.

It is nice to get two back-to-back wins under our belt, especially with this one coming against a strong side like Royal Challengers Bangalore. We are happy and this performance will definitely help us move forward in the competition. RCB is the kind of side that is capable of chasing any total. It was great to see all the bowlers taking up the responsibility and doing the job for the side.

And as usual, the crowd turned up in huge numbers today.

The crowd has been fantastic. Wankhede Stadium is a special ground and playing in front of the Mumbai crowd is always special. I would like to thank each and everyone who come to the ground and supported us. When we lost our matches in the UAE leg, I thought our fans would have been angry, but the way they have supported us is overwhelming. Hopefully, we can continue to work hard and register few more wins here.

Does being the senior-most spinner in the side put extra pressure on you?

I am quite happy with the way things are going. I am open to bowling at any stage of the game. I realise that I am probably the senior-most player in the team along with Lasith Malinga. It is up to us to share the load of the bowling attack when it comes to powerplays or at the death. The job becomes a bit difficult when you do not have too many experienced bowlers in the side, but it is good to see youngsters taking up the challenge and delivering for us.

T20s can be a cruel format for the bowlers. As a spinner, what is your thought process while bowling to batsmen who are ready to take on you from ball-one?

In this format, you cannot save yourself and think that you won’t go for runs. You will go for runs, but at the same time, you have to have the courage to accept the challenge and bowl without fear. You have to take those risks and that is what I look to do. When I was bowling to Gayle tonight, I was only planning to get him out rather than giving him a single. I knew if he would have batted till the 16th over, the game would be out of our hands. The best way to keep batsmen quiet is by trying to get them out rather than being defensive.

You were quite pumped after claiming Gayle’s wicket.

Gayle is one of the most dangerous players in the competition and can score with ease. He hardly takes any time to settle in and it was important from the team’s point of view to get him out as soon as possible. And I am glad I could get him out at the right time.

Do you thrive under pressure?

I have played a lot of cricket under pressure all these years and this is also one of the stages in my career where I am giving my best for my side. There are certain people who perform when the stage is big and the opponents are big; I enjoy such challenges. I know I will only come out stronger from such situations. It might not always work your way, but you have to accept the challenge and see what is in store for you.

What is a spinner’s mantra for success in T20s?

In this format, you will get wickets that are batsmen-friendly. All you can do is use your brain and use variations in your bowling and make sure you do not give too much pace for the batsmen to score freely.
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