Harbhajan Singh relives Eden Gardens hat-trick feat

Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne were Harbhajan’s victims in that glorious last session of the 2001 Eden Gardens Test, when Australia lost seven wickets.

Harbhajan Singh was instrumental in India's come-from-behind win against Australia at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 2001.   -  V. V. KRISHNAN

Who celebrated Harbhajan Singh's hat-trick the most on the opening day of the iconic India-Australia Test at the Eden Gardens on March 11, 2001. “Not me,” revealed the off-spinner. Then? “Rahul (Dravid) and (Sadogoppan) Ramesh. The hat-trick wicket (the first by an Indian) was because of the incredible catch by Ramesh,” recalled Harbhajan, who claimed 13 wickets in that Test.

Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne were Harbhajan’s victims in that glorious last session when Australia lost seven wickets. “To tell you the truth I was apprehensive if I would justify my selection. Australia had lost just one wicket in the first two sessions. They were just belting us. (Mathew) Hayden’s wicket gave us the breakthrough,” said the off-spinner.

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One wicket led to another. “I was happy to get Mark Waugh. And then three in a row.” What was a “gloomy” start was transformed into a “beautiful” day for Harbhajan. “Ponting was a prized wicket because he can be unsparing. There was not much turn and I just looked to bowl wicket-to-wicket. I was lucky in the sense that the ball went straight, did not turn,” remembered Harbhajan.

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When Gilchrist took guard, Harbhajan, playing his 10th Test, told himself not to drift the ball. “It was simple. I had to bowl within the stumps. Line was important. I knew he loves to sweep and I had to deny him. Once again the ball stayed flat and Gilly had no chance. He was trapped plumb.”

The hat-trick ball had Harbhajan thinking a lot. “I was aware that Warne likes to be aggressive. I just had to keep the ball straight. I aimed at hitting the pad. It was an incredible catch by Ramesh that got me the hat-trick. You don’t bowl to take a hat-trick. It happens. It was a team hat-trick.”

Ramesh has a vivid memory of the catch. “I was aware that Warne shuffles a lot. I kept my eyes on the bat, just in case an edge came my way. It did. I saw it in a flash and put out my right hand. It was a firm flick really and I hung on. At that moment I couldn’t remember how Bhajju celebrated because Rahul had jumped to hug me,” said Ramesh.

Looking back on that feat, Harbhajan – 417 wickets from 103 Tests – noted, “I learnt how one ball, one wicket, can change things. It was the most important day of my career. It taught me never to lose hope.“

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