Bhajji ready for biggest battle

Jan. 30: Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh believes that the team’s impressive performance in South Africa will be of little consequence when India embark on their World Cup journey, starting on February 19.

“From my personal experience, I can tell you that our good show in South Africa may give us a bit of confidence but that’s about it. Doing well in bouncy pitches in South Africa and playing in the World Cup is a different ball game altogether,” Harbhajan said.

To elaborate his view he gave example of India’s tour to New Zealand in 2002 before the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. “If you remember, we had a disastrous tour of New Zealand where we lost in both Test and ODI series. But when we played in the World Cup, it was a different story. In fact, we completely dominated while we beat New Zealand and played in the finals. That’s why I feel that a bilateral series can never be an indicator to a team’s performance in a big event,” the feisty off-spinner said.

A veteran of 93 Tests and 217 ODIs, Harbhajan feels India’s World Cup campaign will depend a lot on how the likes of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan handle pressure situations. “As a senior player, I have loads of expectations from guys like Virat, Yusuf and Raina. Just like we (Sehwag, Nehra, Zaheer, Kaif) were the youngest lot in 2003. These youngsters will be eager to show how well they can manage to hold their nerves on big stage. They have had enough exposure in international cricket and I am really hopeful that they would come up trumps.”

On personal front, Harbhajan, is happy that he is in a good frame of mind going into the big event. “If you are an Indian cricketer, then you become adept at handling pressure. I have played long enough to not let pressure affect my game in crunch situations. It has come with years of experience at the international level,” said the offie from Jalandhar, who has 393 Test and 246 ODI wickets to his name. His batting has been a revelation of late and one gets a feeling that his perspective towards batting has changed. “My mantra is simple. If the ball is in my area, I will hit it. Earlier, the approach used to be a slam bang one and I would try to hit any delivery out of sight. Now I try to get my eye in first and then go for attack. Also, if I am batting with the batsman, I try to rotate and give the specialist as much strike as possible,” Harbhajan noted.

He was disappointed that he Indian would not play at the Eden Gardens. "It is sad that we won't be playing infront of a packed Eden Gardens crowd. It's one of my favourite grounds but there are things which are not under my control.”

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