He took flight again in the field of dreams that Chepauk surely is for him. Age is only a number.
The connection between Harbhajan Singh and the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium goes back a long way. The sight of the ground inspires him even as he derails opponents at this venue.
Harbhajan is a smooth operator. He foxes batsmen with change of pace, use of the crease and has this precious ability to control the extent of turn.
When he flights there is drift and turn. When he changes trajectory and alters angle, there is deception.
There was turn in the surface and Harbhajan exploited it.
The hapless Royal Challengers Bangalore, bundled out for 70, was at the receiving end on this occasion. And Chennai Super Kings, in this first match of the IPL, was home by seven wickets in its fortress.
During the chase, the free-stroking southpaw Suresh Raina, CSK’s batting back-bone over the years, crossed 5000 IPL runs, the first batsman to accomplish the feat.
IPL-12’s lung-opener was a one-sided anti-climax but neither CSK nor Harbhajan were complaining.
And Harbhajan’s four over spell at the start of the innings — M.S. Dhoni had elected to field — in which he packed off the RCB big guns Virat Kohli and A.B. de Villiers proved the turning point.
Harbhajan finished with three for 20 off four overs of tease and torment and this marquee duel was as good as over.
The formidable Virat Kohli, opening the innings, departed attempting to pull a short-of-a-length delivery that skidded on to him a tad quicker and was held at deep mid-wicket. Harbhajan let out a roar.
It was surprising why RCB sent Mooen Ali, a left-hander to counter Harbhajan at No.3. The off-spinner had his man, with a delivery that got big on the southpaw from a length. Harbhajan gleefully accepted the return catch.
Then, Harbhajan saw Imran Tahir drop the dangerous de Villiers at deep square-leg but took the South African great in the same over, the batsman’s miscued sweep well held by Ravindra Jadeja at deep mid-wicket.
RCB continued to slide. The talented Shimron Hetmyer stroked to Raina at cover, set off for a single, was turned back by Parthiv Patel, and was run-out by a mile.
Then, the enthusiastic Imran Tahir got into the picture. The big-hitting Shivam Dube was done in by a Tahir googly.
Another heavy-hitter Colin Grandhomme succumbed to a delivery that spun away from left-armer Jadeja. All escape routes for RCB were cut.
By the time Dwayne Brovo prised out opener Parthiv — he was last man dismissed for 29 — the result was a formality.
This was Harbhajan’s night out in the park. Old soldiers never die.