India's cricket fraternity raised a toast to veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh as he called time on his career on Friday, with bigwigs such as Sachin Tendulkar describing his journey as a fulfilling one. Harbhajan, who last played for India in March 2016 in a T20 against UAE, had been contemplating retirement on a highly successful international career for quite some time now.
During his 23-year stint in international cricket, he won two World Cups -- the inaugural ICC World T20 in 2007 and then the ODI World Cup in 2011. He took 417 wickets in 103 Tests, 269 wickets in 236 ODIs, and 25 scalps in 28 T20Is. Recalling the innumerable memorable moments he shared with Harbhajan, batting icon Tendulkar wished the 41-year-old good luck for his "doosra phase.
"What a wonderful & fulfilling career, Bhajji! I first met you at India nets in '95 - over the years, we've been part of wonderful memories. You have been a great team man, playing with all your heart. Both on the field and off it - it is always fun to have you as part of any team. I cannot forget all those moments of laughter," Tendulkar wrote.
"You have done your best for India in your long career, we are all very proud of you. Wishing you happiness and success in the 'doosra' phase of your career," he added.
India head coach Rahul Dravid said that the hallmark of Harbhajan's career has been his fighting qualities. "Harbhajan had many ups and downs in his career but he has always come out fighting. Great competitor and a great team man, someone you wanted to go to battle with. Obviously, one of those great performers for India," Dravid told bcci.tv.
"To be a great sort of partner along with Anil Kumble, part of so many of our great wins during that period, its pleasure and privilege to play alongside him. The highlight of Bhajji's career was 32 wickets and just to see the way he came back after being dropped from the team, the way he carried that attack in absence of Anil Kumble was phenomenal," the Indian head coach said.
Indian captain Virat Kohli said that "711 international wickets are no mean feat and you can be proud of your achievement. It's blessing to play for the country but to play for that long is a different thing altogether," India captain Virat Kohli said.
"I cherish all those moments with you and how you backed me to the hilt when I came into the Indian team. We share a great friendship off the field," Kohli added.
NCA chief and former India batsman VVS Laxman also extended his good wishes. "Hearty congratulations to my great mate @harbhajan_singh on a remarkable career! A tremendous exponent of off-spin, a gifted batsman and a true competitor who fashioned many a wonderful Indian victory. Best wishes for the future, Bhajji, go well!"
Former Indian pacer, S Sreesanth, who was in tears after Harbhajan had allegedly slapped him on-field during an IPL match in 2008, labelled the spinner as the best in the world. "@harbhajan_singh Ur gonna be the one of the best ever played cricket not just for India but in the world of cricket..it's a huge honour to know u and to have played with you b bhajjipa .will always cherish the lovely hugs (lucky for me) before my spells ) lots of love and respect."