The historic Test match between India and Australia at the Eden Gardens in March 2001 witnessed the drama, nail-biting tension and some brilliant individual performances. While VVS Laxman’s stunning knock of 281 and his 376-run partnership with Rahul Dravid after Australia’s follow-on were the highlighted things comes in mind when the clash is talked about along with Harbhajan Singh’s contribution with the ball. He was recalled to the Test side at the time when Sourav Ganguly was the captain. On his insistence, Harbhajan came in the squad and took a hat-trick in Australia’s first innings and finished the match with a whopping 13 wickets.
“They say it’s love at first sight. And when I saw Harbhajan bowl at Eden, picking up 14 wickets it was love at first sight for a cricketer who I believed would go on to change things for Indian cricket,” Sourav Ganguly said in a show on India Today. “And 800 wickets after that, I am not surprised. He and Anil (Kumble) were the two best spinners India has ever had together in terms of the no of wickets and the impact that they have had on Test matches.”
Anil Kumble missed that series with an injury and Ganguly did not have many options at the time against a dominant Australia that was on a 15-match winning streak. The Steve Waugh-led side made that to 16 wins in the first match of the series in Mumbai.
“It was a new team with no Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath two of the best bowlers of that time in Indian cricket,” Ganguly said. “Harbhajan Singh was a new commodity. I played 3 different spinners in 3 different Test matches. 1st one was Rahul Sanghvi, 2nd was Venkatapathy Raju, 3rd one was Neelesh Kulkarni. And my only wicket-taker was Harbhajan Singh because Anil Kumble was injured.”
“Anil Kumble not playing in India is a huge, huge difference for any team,” the former India captain said. “We worked hard before the series, John (Wright) was very important to us and Harbhajan bowled like a champion,” Ganguly said.