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Harbhajan’s Return Adds ‘Aggression’ to Kohli’s Test Team

Harbhajan Singh’s return to the Indian Test squad is a tribute to a fighter who kept his motivation levels high despite being on the sidelines for almost three years. The feisty off-spinner played a crucial role in taking Mumbai Indians to their third IPL final when he took two for 26 to wreck Chennai Super Kings chances at Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday night. It was a timely reminder to the national selectors and a young captain whose aggression matches that of the Turbanator.

“There is this burning desire inside me to make it back to the Indian team,” Harbhajan told iplt20.com ahead of Wednesday’s team selection. “That is the reason why I am playing cricket. Playing for India is the biggest thing and the most satisfying thing for me. That is the biggest motivation for me.”

Harbhajan last played a Test match in Hyderabad in March 2013. He finished with two wickets as India routed Michael Clarke-led Australia by an innings and 135 runs at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal, Hyderabad.

Harbhajan’s performance paled into insignificance as Ravichandran Ashwin destroyed the Aussies with a six-wicket haul as the visitors were shot out for a paltry 131 in their second innings. Harbhajan went wicketless in 10 tight overs. On paper, he was a failure.

A proud owner of 413 Test wickets, Harbhajan never won his good friend MS Dhoni’s favour again. Ashwin became India’s lead spinner as there was no space for a second tweaker as the national team embarked on overseas tour and failed repeatedly on wickets that favoured the seamers. Dhoni was one of Harbhajan’s two scalps on Tuesday night. Bhajji reserved his best celebration for Captain Cool as he kicked the air joyously and gave Dhoni a roaring send off.

“He (Dhoni) is a match-winner and getting his wicket was a match changing kind of a thing for us. I felt good about it because I knew if he played 20-odd balls, it would be a different ball game altogether for us and for them. It was quite satisfying to get his wicket because he is a brilliant player,” Harbhajan explained.

Harbhajan and Ashwin will be part of Virat Kohli’s squad in Bangladesh. Chief selector Sandeep Patil said Harbhajan won Kohli’s nod not only because of his IPL performance, but his conviction to conquer the odds. So far, Harbhajan has taken 16 wickets in IPL 2015, with a best of 3/27. His lower-order contribution – 111 runs – has been a plus. These runs include a 19-ball fifty that typifies Bhajji’s never-give-up qualities.

“Every day I wake up, I wake up with a dream and that is to get back into that Indian side. All I tell myself is to continue to bowl well and keep doing what I have been doing right over the last few years.

“I am making sure that I tick all the boxes that I have chalked out for myself to get into the Indian side. I have been working really hard on my game,” the 34-year-old Harbhajan said. With India playing a lot of cricket at home this upcoming season, the Bangladesh tour could give Harbhajan’s Test career an extended life.

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