When Mohammad Azharuddin insisted Harbhajan Singh to speak in Punjabi during his Test debut vs Australia
Legendary Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh shared an anecdote from his early cricketing days during Australia's 1998 tour of India in a special package aired by the official broadcasters of the ongoing first Test match between India and South Africa in Vishakhapatnam on Thursday. Harbhajan, who remains to be a full-time pundit and makeshift commentator, made his international debut in the whites under the then captain Mohammad Azharuddin.
The veteran Indian spinner recalled his first Team India meeting ahead of his Test debut against the mighty Australian side. Nicknamed 'Bhajji', the offie took centre stage on the international platform in the third Test against the visitors at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru.
Reminiscing about his first crack at the longest format of the game for India, Harbhajan revealed how unnerved he was before his first Test and how skipper Azharuddin rescued the youngster at the time. A young Harbhajan at that time was dealing with language divide since most of the players were conversating in English during the team talk. “Before my debut Test, the players were speaking in English in the dressing room during a team meeting," Harbhajan explained the official broadcasters.
With English being the conceptual barrier of preventing effective communication, Azharuddin came up to the Punjab rookie and helped him during the routine team talk in the Indian dressing room. "I didn’t understand much as I couldn’t speak the language back then. I was asked to speak something but I told them I couldn’t speak in English,” Harbhajan added.
While narrating the entire scenario of the dressing room, Harbhajan credited the Indian skipper for helping him cross the language barrier ahead of his entry into the international setup. The Turbanator said that Azhar insisted him to contribute in the language he is comfortable with during one of the team talks prior to the game.
“That is when Azharduddin came up to me and asked me what the problem was. I said I cannot speak the language. He asked me which language I was comfortable with and I said Punjabi. He then asked me to speak in Punjabi during the team meeting,” he added. In the very same game, the spinner not only made his debut but he also scalped his first international wicket when he got the better of Darren Lehmann. Though Harbhajan contributed on his debut with three wickets, it was the Australian side who salvaged pride by winning the final Test by eight wickets.