Former India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has confirmed his retirement from all forms of cricket on Friday, to end a glittering 23-year career in the sport. A fun character, the 41-year-old made his international debut in 1998 and played 103 tests, 236 one-day internationals, and 28 Twenty20 internationals, taking 711 wickets across the three formats and winning the 2011 ODI World Cup and the 2007 T20I World Cup.
Singh took 417 wickets in Test cricket – which ranks him 14th all-time and is the fourth most in Indian cricket history. He did so at an average of 32.46 and a 2.84 economy. Singh also took 269 more wickets in ODIs and added 25 in T20i matches. He last played for India in a T20I in 2016 but has continued to play in the Indian Premier League, turning out for the Kolkata Knight Riders in three matches in the 2021 season. He finishes his career as the country’s fourth-highest wicket-taker in test cricket, after Anil Kumble, Kapil Dev, and R Ashwin.
“There comes a time in your life when you must make some tough decisions and move ahead,” Harbhajan said in a video message posted on YouTube. “I have been meaning to make this announcement for the last few years, but I was waiting for the right moment to share it with all of you. Today, I am retiring from all formats of cricket.” From Bhajji to The Turbanator, our very own Harbhajan Singh was a world-class Off-spinner, who represented India in all three formats for a very long time (1998-2015). He has the Fourth-highest number of Test wickets by an off-spinner behind India’s Ravichandran Ashwin and Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath.
Singh was captain of IPL team Mumbai Indians and Punjab for the 2012–13 Ranji Trophy season. Under his captaincy, Mumbai Indians won the 2011 Champions League Twenty20. Harbhajan broke into the Punjab Under-16s at the age of 15 years and 4 months in November of the 1995–96 season, and took 7/46 and 5/138 on debut against Haryana, setting up a nine-wicket win. He scored 56 in his next match against Delhi and then took 11/79 in his third match against Himachal Pradesh, orchestrating an innings win. He ended with 32 wickets at 15.15 and 96 runs at 48.00 in four matches.
He was rewarded with selection for North Zone Under-16s, a team that represents all of northern India for a one-day series, in which he took two wickets at 43.50 in four matches and scored 18 runs. At the end of the season, he was called into the national Under-19 team at the age of 15 years and 9 months for a youth One Day International against South Africa. He took 1/19 from seven overs in an Indian win. In 1996–97, Harbhajan was promoted to the Punjab Under-19s and he took 15 wickets at 20.20 in three matches, although he managed only two runs with the bat. This included match figures of 8/54 in an innings win over Jammu and Kashmir.
Harbhajan made his first-class cricket debut in late 1997 against Services, during the 1997–98 Ranji Trophy season. He took a total of 3/35 in an innings win but was dropped back to the Under-19s the following week. He then took 5/75 and 7/44 in two matches to earn a recall to the senior team. He then took a total of 7/123 in the next two matches for Punjab to earn selection for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy. Harbhajan’s season was interrupted when he represented India at the Under-19 World Cup in January 1998. He played in six matches, taking eight wickets at 24.75 with a best of 3/5 against Kenya.
Harbhajan played the full 2009 Indian Premier League season in South Africa, taking 12 wickets at 21.33 and an economy rate of 5.81 in 13 matches. He was one of the most economical bowlers in the competition and took 1/9 in four overs against Punjab to win the man of the match award. He ended the season with 4/17 against Delhi, but it was not enough to prevent a four-wicket defeat. During the 2010 IPL season, he finished as the Mumbai Indian’s leading wicket-taker with 17 victims at an average of 22.17 helping his team to reach the final. Kolkata Knight Riders were the last team in IPL he was a part of in 2021.