Harbhajan: ‘India is well-equipped to keep the title’

The International Cricket Council, in an effort to promote the Champions Trophy, has appointed eight brand ambassadors for the seventh edition of the tournament.

Harbhajan Singh, hopeful of making it back to the national team, has not lost his zeal to take on the best.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

For Harbhajan Singh it is an opportunity to “pay back” to the game by ensuring the fans fill up the stands at the Champions Trophy to be held in England.

“We have to make the right noises and attract fans to come and celebrate the tournament at the venues. It is important that the stadiums are packed when the world’s best eight teams compete for the title which is next only to the World Cup,” Harbhajan told The Hindu.

The off-spinner, hopeful of making it back to the national team, has not lost his zeal to take on the best. “It’s all about confidence and trust in your skills. I have always backed myself and this is an honour which is obviously going to boost my ambitions,” said Harbhajan.

The International Cricket Council, in an effort to promote the Champions Trophy, has appointed eight brand ambassadors for the seventh edition of the tournament. “I am looking forward to visit different cities to promote the game.”

The challenge that 50 overs cricket was confronted with from the rising popularity of the T20 brand was not a cause of concern as far as Harbhajan was concerned.

“I hear people talk of threat to Test cricket from T20. It is not going to happen. It is India that fans are not turning up in big numbers for Test matches because there is too much of cricket and too much of T20 cricket.

“In countries like England, Australia and South Africa fans are watching Test cricket in big numbers and I am convinced there is place for 50 overs cricket too. It has its own excitement and attractions,” Harbhajan noted.

The 36-year-old off-spinner, with 269 wickets from 236 ODIs, pointed out the importance of Champions Trophy. “It is a well-structured tournament and has the best of the world participating. In the past we have seen some of the finest matches in this tournament and I am sure the forthcoming edition is going to be an intensely competed tournament.

“As defending champion, India has a task at hand and we are well-equipped to keep the title. We have a strong combination that can excel in English conditions,” Harbhajan was optimistic.

Reflecting on his experience in the tournament, Harbhajan, member of the team that shared the trophy with Sri Lanka in 2002, said, “I have find memories of the tournament which we should have won but for the rain in the final. The semifinal (against South Africa) remains memorable. We had posted a good target (262) but the South Africans were cruising (at 192 for one) when (Herchelle) Gibbs retired and I got Jonty Rhodes who fell to an exceptional catch by Yuvraj Singh (at short fine leg).

“Yuvraj was young then. The same over I got (Boeta) Dippenaar and the game changed in our favour. That (10-run) win is my best Champions Trophy memory,” said Harbhajan.

As a brand ambassador now, Harbhajan can relive those moments when he travels to promote the game in different cities.