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Shirin Sadikot in Cape Town

SA conditions good for cricket, CLT20: Bhajji

MI captain believes playing in SA gives every team a chance to win title

Harbhajan Singh is a spirited soul. One can fault him for being anything but passive and non-competitive. He loves a good fight and is ready to work hard to win it. This side of Bhajji is not unknown. But it once again came to the fore during his chat with clt20.com as the captain of the Mumbai Indians.

Here to defend their CLT20 title, the Mumbai Indians lost their opening game to the Highveld Lions. Instead of whining about the South African conditions being difficult for his team to adjust to, Bhajji chose to look at the bigger picture. “This is good for cricket and the CLT20 that it is played in South African conditions. Every team has a chance to win it,” Harbhajan said when asked about the IPL teams’ struggle in the tournament so far. He also opined that among all four IPL teams participating in CLT20 2012, the Delhi Daredevils have the best balance to suit South African wickets and climate.

The Indian off-spinner also shared his journey from “storm” to “sunshine”, reminiscing about his time out of the Indian team and the following thrilling comeback, in the World Twenty20 game against England, when his 4 for 12 in four overs were became the best bowling figures by an Indian in T20Is.

Excerpts from his interview:

The IPL teams have got off to a slow start in the CLT20. What according to you is the reason behind that?

If all the IPL teams are not playing like they do in India, the only reason could be the failure to adapt to the conditions. Probably, we’re taking rather long in getting used to the climate and the wickets here. Delhi Daredevils is the only IPL team which has won a game so far and that’s because they have a good bowling line-up with the likes of Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav who can run in and bowl above 145kph. However, we have been here for some time now and hopefully we’ll play much better in the coming games than we did in our first match.

Do you think playing the tournament in South Africa has made the field more open for all the teams and the balance is not tilted towards the teams from India?

It’s good for cricket. The Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings are dominant when they play in their home conditions. Having a tournament here gives a chance to everyone and there are no favourites. The wickets are true and we have to test ourselves on these wickets to see where we stand in comparison with everyone else. It is good for the tournament and the game that no team feels it cannot win the tournament.

Talk us through your comeback to international cricket. Your first game after comeback was sensational.

I’ve always been a believer in myself. In cricket or in any sport you can’t be on top all the time. I’ve had a very disappointing year due to injuries and form issues. But it’s nice to be back with the Indian team and doing well. My first game was very special and that’s the kind of start I was looking for. When you’re out of international cricket for more and a year and suddenly you make a comeback and win the Man of the Match award, it does boost your confidence. The odds can go against you but as long as you continue to try and work on your game, you will come out strong, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Now that you’re back and have a couple of good performances under your belt, what did you think went wrong during the period you were struggling?

Nothing was wrong. Probably my time wasn’t right and nothing was clicking for me. I tried everything. I worked hard, gave myself every chance by doing everything that made me successful in the first place. But nothing went my way. At times, all you can do is hang in there and believe that things will change. If it’s stormy now, it won’t be raining every day. You must keep up the hope that things will change. And they have changed. The sun is out now.

Was it to do with a bit of lack of confidence?

Confidence comes from performances and performance comes by playing. During that period I wasn’t playing much cricket and whenever I was playing, I wasn’t fully fit. I struggled during the Ranji Trophy and then I played the IPL, which is a very demanding tournament. It’s not the kind of tournament a bowler would like to play to regain form. I didn’t have the best time in the last IPL. Then I went to play in England (County Cricket for Essex) where I found myself in a different space. There, I was exactly in the frame of mind I wanted to be in. I played a lot of cricket there and got the confidence back. I’m happy to be playing cricket again and hopefully, soon I’ll be where I used to be.

Another man who made a comeback with you was Yuvraj Singh. But his comeback was very different from yours.

Hats off to Yuvraj for the way he fought cancer and showed a lot of people that you can beat this disease. He showed that if you have the will and the belief you can beat anything in this world. It’s great to see him playing cricket again. He’s a champion player and I’m really happy to see him in Indian colours again. He recently got a double-century for North zone in the Duleep Trophy. It’s great to see that someone I’ve grown up with fought this battle alone so bravely. It’s amazing.

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