The off-spinner was on the verge of extinction, after being dismissed from the National Cricket Academy, when Sourav Ganguly spotted in him the ideal weapon to take on Steve Waugh's rampaging Australians. Harbhajan Singh, on the captain who transformed his career.
"The mighty Australian side was coming to India when Sourav Ganguly had just taken over the captaincy. The preparation camp was going on in Chennai. Anil Kumble was recovering from his shoulder injury. Sourav was looking out for spinners who could threaten the Aussie batsmen. After giving it a long thought the selection committee and Sourav gave the preference to me. We lost the first match in Mumbai because of an outstanding inning played by Adam Gilchrist. In Kolkata we struggled in the first innings and Steve Waugh asked us to follow on. V V S and Rahul [Dravid] put on a huge partnership and Sourav forced the Aussie team to bat again. He gave his full support to me as bowler.
He said, 'Just think about getting batsmen out. Whatever field you want I will give you. If we can get first few batters out they will be under pressure and for a long time they don't know how to bat under pressure'. In the second innings Aussie batsman succumbed under pressure and we levelled the series by winning that match.
That victory changed the face of Indian cricket. We started believing in our abilities. We got the confidence that we can take on any team. For me Sourav was a different captain. And his combination with John Wright was just perfect. He may have used harsh words when things did not work according to plan but we always knew that as a leader Sourav will support us. Once he believes in any player's ability or talent, he will give him full confidence and support. Just look at how Yuvraj [Singh], [Virender] Sehwag, Zaheer [Khan] and even me blossomed under Sourav's captaincy. Playing well to reach the 2003 World Cup final was unbelievable.
I can understand what it takes to make a successful comeback at the international level. Sourav has proven his ability once again in grand fashion. His batting during the recently concluded ODI series was a real treat to watch. All of us are eager to celebrate his 100 Test match appearance. Team is totally focussed on doing well in Australia. This is my first tour to Australia. All of us know how difficult it is going to be, but we are ready for the challenge."