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Harbhajan Singh retires from all forms of the game

Dravid takes charge from Shastri India off-spinner Harbjahan Singh announced his retirement from all forms of cricket. The 41-year-old picked up 417 wickets in 103 Tests, 269 wickets in 236 ODIs and 25 scalps in 28 T20Is in his career. Harbhajan Turbanator announced in his twitter post, “All good things come to an end and today as I bid adieu to the game that has given me everything in life, I would like to thank everyone who made this 23-year-long journey beautiful and memorable. My heartfelt thank you ?? Grateful”.

In a video message on Twitter, Harbhajan shared a lengthy statement and said he was waiting for the right time to hang his boots. Bhajji said he wanted to bid farewell by wearing the Indian jersey, but destiny had other plans. “There comes a time in life, you have to take tough decisions, and you have to move on. From the past year, I wanted to make an announcement, and I was waiting for the right time to share the moment with all of you. Today, I am taking retirement from all formats of cricket. Mentally, I retired earlier but couldn’t announce it. In any case, I have not been playing active cricket for some time, but due to my commitment with Kolkata Knight Riders, I wanted to stay with them for the IPL (2021) season. But during the season, I had already made up my mind to retire. Like every cricketer, I wanted to bid adieu, wearing an Indian jersey but destiny had other plans. For whichever team I have played, I have played with 100 per cent commitment so that my team finishes on top.”

Harbhajan spoke about his professional career and said winning the 2007 T20 World Cup and the 2011 ODI World Cup were the most important moments for him. “Speaking about my cricket career. My first moment of joy was when I took a hat-trick in Kolkata, becoming the first Indian to do so in Test cricket. During that series, I took 32 wickets in three matches, and it is still a record. The 2007 World Cup, and of course, the 2011 World Cup triumph, was the most important to me. These are memorable moments I will never be able to forget. I can’t describe it in words how much happiness I got from it.”

Harbhajan thanked his teammates, opposition players and coaches, groundsmen and umpires who wished him well in life. The 41-year-old also expressed his gratitude towards BCCI President Sourav Ganguly, secretary Jay Shah and all other members of BCCI along with Punjab Cricket Association (PCA). “I want to thank all my teammates and all the opposition players, and also thank all my coaches, groundsmen, umpires, media and every person that has encouraged me to do well in life. And from the bottom of my heart, I also want to thank all those fans who prayed for me when I was representing the Indian cricket team. Also want to thank BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, secretary Jay Shah, all the members of the BCCI. Also, thank the Punjab Cricket Association. MP Pandove, sir, IS Bindra sir, both will always be very close to my heart.”

Harbhajan made his Test debut against Australia in Bangalore back in 1998 and Greg Blewett turned out to be his maiden Test scalp. In the same year, he earned his maiden ODI cap when India played against New Zealand in April in Sharjah. Matt Horne was his first ODI wicket. However, it was roughly three years later when the off-spinner reached great heights, powering India to a memorable come-from-behind 2-1 Test series win against Australia by scalping 32 wickets. He also recorded his best Test figures of 8 for 84 in that series in Chennai. Harbhajan also was a member of the Indian side that reached the summit clash of the 2003 50-over World Cup and eventually won the title in 2011 where he took nine wickets. He also was a part of the set-up that won the T20 World Cup in 2007 in South Africa.

Harbhajan also was one of the mainstays of India's memorable overseas wins in Leeds (2002) and Durban (2010-11 season), finishing with four and six wickets respectively. He recorded his best Test figures away from home - 7 for 120 - in the drawn Test in Cape Town in 2010-11. He played his final international game against the UAE in the T20 Asia Cup in 2016. Harbhajan also played 163 IPL matches and took 150 wickets. His best season in the IPL came in 2013 when he took 24 wickets at an average of 19 for the Mumbai Indians. The veteran off-spinner, who made his first-class debut in the 1997 season for Punjab versus Services, also played 198 first-class matches, snaring 780 wickets.

He was also a useful contributor with the bat in hand, evidenced by the two Test hundreds he compiled versus New Zealand at home in 2010. In addition to those two hundreds, he also scored nine fifties in the longest format of the game.

Former Australian Captain, Ricky Ponting was Harbhajan’s Bunny. Ponting recently revealed that he lost confidence in his technique against Harbhajan Singh the first time he was dismissed by the off-spinner in the 2001 Mumbai Test. "I remember that one series where, I guess that must be 2001, I think he got me out 5 times or every time I batted in that series. Yeah, it was almost like he had some sort of spell over me every time I walked out to bat in Test cricket." He added, "And from that moment on, I didn't trust my technique. So, I was trying to find a different way to play. And the next innings, I ran down the wicket first ball and got stumped. And then, I tried to sweep, got a bottom-edge on the first one, popped up to short leg."

Actor Geeta Basra shared an emotional note as her husband, cricketer Harbhajan Singh announced retirement from all formats of the game. She said that he ‘had retired a long time ago’ mentally but was ‘waiting for the right moment’ to make a formal announcement. “I know how long you waited for this moment.. mentally you had retired a long time ago but officially you were waiting for the right moment. Today I want to say how proud we are of you and what you have achieved! There is so much more that awaits you on this beautiful road ahead,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

Geeta remembered the ‘fun and excitement’ of watching Harbhajan play, along with the ‘stress and anxiety’ she felt. She also talked about the ‘endless prayers’, understanding cricket better through him and celebrating all his wins and the records he created. “Congratulations on an amazing career Bhaj...not many can boast of playing for 23 years!!! I’m so fortunate to have been a part of your journey through all the ups and downs and thankful that Hinaya got to see her Papa play (we were your loudest fans in the stadium),” she wrote.

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