"I thought playing cricket was pure happiness until I held my new-born daughter. After spending 15 days with her, I had to leave. Inside the plane, I couldn't stop myself from crying and in that moment felt a deep sense of attachment with her. I realised pure happiness can be from bonds too," shared the great Indian off-spinner popularly called 'bhajji' and turbanator, Harbhajan Singh, at the ongoing Goafest 2023 at Grand Hyatt, Bambolim.
Singh was invited at the Goafest to talk about Unearthing Future Talent: The Rise of Indian Cricketers from the Grassroots. In conversation with Manish Batavia, the cricketer gave insight into lesser-known stories and moments of his life.
DESTINED FOR CRICKET
Singh spoke about a time in his life when he decided to give up the dream of playing cricket and move abroad for better prospects. He said, "It was a bad phase in my life. I had lost my father and the money too that I had was used to build a house. That is the moment when I thought of leaving the country for a foreign land to take up some cleaning or housekeeping job."
Raising his head up to the sky, he said, "Thank god that plan didn't work. God had other plans for me."
This is when cricket opportunity knocked on the door for Singh. He went on to become the master off-spin bowling in the country and eventually became the second-highest wicket-taker in Test matches.
He was also the former captain of the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League. Currently, Singh is the Member of Parliament.
Holding Indian cricketer, Sourav Ganguly, in high esteem, Bhajji shared an emotional story about the bond he shares with Ganguly.
"Many people knew my temper, but Ganguly was the one who saw my potential and believed in me. He knew that I had my heart on cricket and saw me as a performer who could do anything for the country. This is what made him a very special captain to me," Singh said.
CREATIVITY IN COACHING
Singh said that creativity in coaching is when a coach is able to see a player's potential and bring out the best to showcase it to the audience.
"Coaching happens at a very early stage like in the under 16-19 category and that is the moment you learn everything. Later on, it is all management and hardwork," he said.
With a warm smile on his face, Singh went on to share a story while working on a Tamil film, Friendship. "At that time, I was playing for Mumbai Indians in the IPL, and the team had intense rivalry with Chennai Super Kings. However, despite the rivalry, I experienced love and hospitality from the people of South and this speaks volumes of how India is united as a nation," he described.
THE MOMENT OF REGRET
Amidst the conversation, Harbhajan Singh also regretted the moment on the pitch when he slapped his colleague S Sreesanth and said that it was his fault and mistake. "If a person asks for forgiveness with a clean heart is what is important and I know that it is my mistake," he added.
FUTURE OF INDIAN CRICKET
He spoke about a few young and upcoming cricketers who can be the best for the Indian team. "Yashasvi Jaiswal and Rinku Singh have the potential. They have showcased it at the IPL and are the future of Indian cricket," he averred.
PLAY FOR INDIA
He had a word of advice to young cricketers: "Aim to be in the Indian cricket team that is where fame and real happiness lie. Money will come and go, but if you are playing for the nation that is where happiness is."
During the course of the seminar, he shared lot many cricketing insights and how he carved out his own identity. He appealed to the audience and fans to look out for his upcoming book on his life's journey and more.