हिन्दीಕನ್ನಡമലയാളംதமிழ்తెలుగు

Harbhajan keyed up for the Aussies

Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
 
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New Delhi:If "Turbanator I" was like a horror film for Australia in 2001, "Turbanator II" promises to be no different.

Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, nicknamed the "Turbanator" for his awesome performance against Australia three years ago, has already warned that he plots to ambush the visitors with new weapons this time.

He claims he has been working on a "mystery ball" for the past couple of months to catch the Australians on the wrong foot. He has declined to comment on how the new delivery will behave.

"I will save it for the Australians when they come to India," Harbahjan said.

"I have not been using it yet because we are playing non-stop. I need some more time to work on it since developing it takes time. But I promise that it will be a good ball, a wicket-taking one."

This is not encouraging news for Australia, trying to break a 35-year drought and win a Test series in India.

Harbhajan was the main difference between the two teams in 2001, setting an Indian record of 32 wickets in three matches to play a major role in his side's stunning 2-1 victory.

He was not a proven match-winner before Steve Waugh's team arrived here. He did little of note in the opening match at Bombay where the visitors took a 10-wicket victory.

But Harbhajan's fortunes changed instantly in the first innings of the second match at Calcutta as he gained international recognition by becoming the only Indian to take a Test hat-trick.

That was the beginning of Harbhajan's rise and Australia's decline in the closely fought series.

India were on the brink of losing the Calcutta Test also after conceding a 274-run lead, but Rahul Dravid (180) and Venkatsai Laxman (281) batted with immense concentration to ensure the hosts would not lose.

By the last day, India needed 10 wickets in five hours after setting a 384-run target for Australia.

Harbhajan turned a probable draw into a fairytale victory with yet another mesmerising spell, taking six wickets to plot Australia's 171-run defeat, only the third instance in Test history a team had won after following on.

The "Turbanator" finished the match with 13 wickets and then took 15 scalps in the third and final Test at Madras to complete India's stunning series victory.

Fame, money and fans grew with each year as Harbhajan continued to build on the Australia series until a finger injury threatened to end his career.

The 24-year-old off-spinner has been a virtual spectator in Test cricket since December after undergoing surgery. He figured in only one of the four Tests in Australia and missed the historic three-match series in Pakistan.

He returned to competitive cricket in July for one-day tournaments in Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and England.

Harbhajan has shown no signs of rustiness in the shorter version of the game and is steadily getting into his groove ahead of the Australia Tests.

Harbhajan has much at stake in this series as he is keen to prove that he has lost neither his guile nor dominance over the Australian batsmen. The "Turbanator" promises to be back.

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