DELHI: Former Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who became the first Indian bowler to grab a Test hat-trick in a memorable international career, announced retirement from all forms of cricket on Friday, saying that he is finally communicating what has been on his mind for the past few years.
Harbhajan made his international debut as a 17-year-old against Australia in Bengaluru in March 1998. He would go on to pick up 417 wickets in 103 Test matches and remains India’s fourth highest wicket-taker in Test cricket. Harbhajan represented India in 236 ODIs, in which he picked up 269 wickets. He also picked up 25 wickets in 28 T20Is for India.
“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,” Harbhajan Singh wrote on Twitter.
“From the narrow lanes of Jalandhar to becoming the Turbanator of Team India, it has been a beautiful journey of the past 25 years,” he said.
He said he harboured hopes of retiring in India colours but that could not materialise.
“Like all cricketers, I too wanted to bid adieu in Indian jersey but fate had something else in store for me,” he said in a YouTube video posted alongside his tweet.
“…there comes a time when you have to take some tough decisions and have to move on in life. Mentally I had retired long back but couldn’t announce it. I haven’t been active in cricket,” he added.
Harbhajan was an integral part of the Indian team across formats in the 2000s and won the 2007 ICC WT20 and the 2011 ICC World Cup with the team under MS Dhoni’s captaincy. Harbhajan shot to fame in 2001 as he played a stellar role in helping India beat Steve Waugh’s all-conquering Australian side in a home Test series. The off-spinner picked up 32 wickets in the series, which included a hat-trick in the landmark 2nd Test in Eden Gardens in Kolkata, which was the first by an Indian bowler.
Harbhajan had featured in a few matches during the first phase of last IPL for Kolkata Knight Riders but didn’t play in the UAE leg of the league.
“I haven’t been playing active cricket for quite some time but due to my commitment with Kolkata Knight Riders, I wanted to stay with them in the IPL season but I had made up my mind during the season.”
“For whichever team I have played, there has always been 100 per cent commitment from me to ensure that my team finishes at the top, whether it is India, Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders, Surrey or Essex county.”
One of the most memorable moments in his international career was when he snapped 32 wickets in three Tests, including the first Test hat-trick by an Indian, against Australia in March 2001. That historic Test triumph is one of the most iconic moments in Indian cricket.
“In my cricket career, I was happy for the first time when I had taken a hat-trick in Kolkata and I became the first Indian bowler to take a hat-trick in Test cricket. I had also taken 32 wickets in three matches, which is still a record.
“Then the 2007 and 2011 World Cup wins were most important for me. Such memorable moments I can’t forget in my life and I can’t ever explain in words what it meant to me.”
Harbhajan thanked his parents, his spiritual guru, his wife and children in the video, saying that he would now try to make up for the time he couldn’t be there with them due to his cricketing commitments.
“My parents worked hard to fulfil my dreams. If I am born again, I would like to be born again as their son,” he said.
“My wife Geeta, your love completes me, you have seen the best and worst of me. You won’t complain that I don’t give you time anymore. (And) I am happy that I will have time for my children and watch them grow up,” he added.
Harbhajan was an integral part of the India team, which achieved a lot of success away from home under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly. He is among the select few Indian cricketers who have played two ICC World Cup finals, losing to Australia in 2003 and winning against Sri Lanka in 2011.