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banner Friday, 16 March, 2001, 10:22 GMT
From zero to hero
Harbhajan Singh claims a wicket in the second Test against Australia
Harbhajan produced an inspired display in Calcutta
Once labelled a 'chucker, Harbhajan Singh is now a Test match-winner in the space of three years. BBC Sport Online profiles India's new spin star.

Life has turned full circle for Harbhajan Singh Plaha in the space of two weeks.

After being summoned back into the Indian squad from domestic cricket, he is now he is a national hero after match figures of 13 for 196 in the Calcutta Test.

It was a marvellous performance from a player who has twice been on the verge of being confined to the cricket dustbin since making his Test debut three years ago.

The 20-year-old boy from Punjab's Jalandhar city has overcome the trauma of being labelled a 'chucker' by the International Cricket Council and 'indisciplined' by the director of India's National Cricket Academy (NCA).

Propelled into the national squad in his second season of first-class cricket in 1998, Harbhajan impressed the selectors enough for them to keep faith with him despite wickets being hard to come by.

Former England spinner Fred Titmus
Titmus helped remodel Harbhajan's action

His world was turned upside down, however, by the ICC deemed his bowling action to be suspect.

Harbhajan underwent 'corrective' coaching under former England spinner Fred Titmus and ex-Indian Test player Erapalli Prasanna guided his recovery from the mental trauma.

A remodelled action sometimes results in reduced effectiveness.

The potential consequence for him were immense, given India's traditional strength in spin bowling.

Sachin Tendulkar's backing resulted in a place in the squad which toured Australia in 1999-200, but Harbhajan was reduced to a mere passenger as the pitches Down Under compelled team management to rely on medium pacers.

Striving to stay afloat, Harbhajan's confidence took further beating when he was thrown out of the NCA last year along with two others.

Harbhajan Singh's opportunities were limited in Australia
In the nets in Australia last winter

They were all accused of not falling in line with the academy's professed objectives and shirking physical conditioning workouts.

Down in the dumps, he was on the brink of being lost to Indian cricket forever.

His lucky break came when Anil Kumble was sidelined for the home series against Australian following shoulder surgery.

Suddenly the selectors were casting around for the best alternatives and turned again to Harbhajan.

Four wickets in the first Test underlined his ability and he followed that by claiming India's first hat-trick at Calcutta by claiming the scalps of Ricky Ponting (leg before), Adam Gilchrish (left before) and Shane Warne (caught at short-leg).

"When the Aussies were hitting me all over the ground, I began feeling low. But everything changed dramatically after the hat-trick," he said

Harbhajan Singh dismisses Shane Warne
The hat-trick moment

His first innings figures of seven for 123 were followed by another six wickets on Friday as the Aussies were skittled.

"This is what cricket's all about. Sometimes you get hit mercilessly, but good bowlers are the the ones who bounce back."

That attitude, combined with his natural ability, should ensure a lengthy Test career.

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