Kolkata:Encouraging words from his former captain Anil Kumble helped him in concentrating on his game after his recent poor form to play a big role in India's victory over South Africa in second Test here, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh disclosed on Thursday.
Harbhajan, who claimed five for 59 in India's win at the Eden Garden's on Thursday, said Kumble had spoken to him recently and that has boosted his confidence to do well against South Africa.
"Anil bhai will probably always be the one who will call me and tell me that there is nothing wrong with me. He just told me to be the way I am and I will be bowling well," he said after helping India thrash South Africa by an innings and 57 runs.
"He (Kumble) told me 'You have taken 350-plus wickets and it doesn't come through fluke. You know what you can do and I have played so much with you. You just have to be confident and it is just a matter of time before you will get the wickets'. He was pretty much right," added Harbhajan.
Harbhajan said he also had learnt a lot from the retired leg-spinner, particularly on how to set fields against batsman like Jacques Kallis.
"I would like to give him a big thanks for the advice and even on the field settings that for particular batsmen like Jacques Kallis I should have a particular kind of field. Thank you to Anil bhai for helping me out," he said.
Harbhajan also disclosed that he was bowling with pain on the fifth day on Thursday.
"My shin was hurting but I tried to bowl the way I can do and I am very happy today. I am taking two ODIs off because of my sister's wedding so I should be fine for the third one," said Harbhajan.
He also said that there was something in Eden Gardens that brings the best in him like the Feroze Shah Kotla for Kumble.
"Every player has his own special ground. Anil bhai always enjoyed bowling in Delhi and I always enjoyed bowling at the Eden because I have always done well here, touchwood. I really enjoyed the way I bowled here. Eden has always been special for me," said Harbhajan, who have so far taken 43 wickets, including a rare hat-trick, at the Eden.
"The crowd was fantastic. I have not heard this kind of noise anywhere in India. Eden has probably been the best ground as you get the crowds for the whole five days. It does not matter whether India is batting or bowling so it is fantastic."
On Amit Mishra coming in as leg-spinner after Kumble's retirement, Harbhajan said, "Those are big shoes to fill. Anil bhai was fantastic from the other end and Mishra is very new and young in international cricket. He is learning everyday but he bowled well in the match. He is improving with every game and I am sure he will play for India for long time."
Asked whether he has extra pressure in the absence of Kumble, Harbhajan said, "I just don't look at it that way that I have to take extra pressure that Anil bhai is not there anymore, bowling from the other side. I just bowl the way I can bowl and try to bowl in partnerships with Amit Mishra or Zaheer Khan.
"I think Zaheer has been fantastic in the last three or four series. We have got the unit, we have got young bowlers, talented bowlers and we need to help them," he said.
Harbhajan said his focus in the second Test was to be relaxed and bowl at the right areas.
"I was very relaxed and I knew that if I bowl in the right areas then I will create opportunities to get batsmen out and that was what I was looking to do. I was very focused and I knew what I was doing and I knew my plans and we got it right.
"I wanted to pitch the ball up and I wanted to get him leg before wicket or bat pad at silly point or in the slips so there were a lot of options. That is what I was trying to do by keeping things simple."
On the two South African late order partnerships which frustrated the Indians, Harbhajan said, "In cricket, partnership will happen. You just have to be ready for the chances and you to keep on bowling the way you know you can get people out.
"You need to have patience and believe in yourself that you can get them out. I think their last wicket batted really well but we bowled well and took our catches. It is great to be part of this team and to be number one."
He said his side felt the absence of fast bowler Zaheer Khan in the South African second innings.
"I think all three bowlers and Virender Sehwag also, we have taken the pressure. We have taken the responsibility, we knew that we were one guy and we had to do it with whatever resources we had and I am glad we have come out winners."
He heaped praise on Hashim Amla who has a mindboggling 490-run average this series.
"Obviously Amla batted very well. Most of the teams when they come here, they don't know much about the spin, whether it is turning, bouncing or keeping low from the wicket.
"But he was very calm throughout his batting and that was probably the key. He kept on playing on to his style of cricket, he never took any chances, he never looked to do something fancy, he just played cricketing shots. I think he was the best batsman in the South African batting line-up."