Ashwin, who had replaced Harbhajan in the Indian team, is among the leading off-spinners in the world alongside Australia’s Nathan Lyon.
Harbhajan is not yet retired but last played for India in 2016. The 39-year-old has played 103 Tests with his final game coming in 2015. Ashwin, on the other hand, has played 71 Tests since making his debut in 2011.
Harbhajan with 417 dismissals, holds the record for the highest Test wickets claimed by an Indian off-spinner. Ashwin is not too far behind with 365 wickets currently.
But the duo were very often pitted against each other when Ashwin fought with Harbhajan for the lone spinner’s spot in the Indian team on many occasions.
However, Harbhajan clarified that he had no bitter feelings towards Ashwin when they were part of the Indian team.
“A lot of people would say that there is a lot of jealousy between us,” Harbhajan told Ashwin during his Instagram chat show on Monday.
“I would want to call out to them and say there is nothing like that. Ashwin is the best offie in the world right now.”
“Lyon is also up there because he has done extremely well for himself given the fact that he comes from Australia where the pitches hardly aid spinners. But Ashwin is a legend in the making. Going forward, I only want him to stay fit because he is capable of taking a lot more wickets and could finish among the highest wicket-takers in the world,” Harbhajan said.
The chat was focused on India’s remarkable comeback in the 2001 home Test series against Australia.
Trailing 0-1 in the three-match series, India went on to win the next two Tests including second one in Kolkata, where India won after following-on, thanks to a iconic stand between VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid.
Ashwin also had words of praise for his former teammate and recalled how he learnt a lot about sportsmanship from Harbhajan when he was a young cricketer. Ashwin was in the stands when Harbhajan starred in India’s epic Test win against Australia at Chepauk in 2001, leading the hosts to a 2-1 series win.
During that Test, Harbhajan dropped Matthew Hayden’s catch off Sairaj Bahutule’s bowling. Ashwin later revealed how he noticed Harbhajan apologising to his India teammate after he dismissed Colin Miller, who had been caught by Bahutule.
“I have never missed a Test at Chepauk… I have might have played in them or watched it from the stands. So I was there during that Test. I saw you going to Bahutule and apologising for dropping Hayden earlier. My father pointed out the sportsman’s spirit between the two players. He told me about how the players get along with the game and focus on the next ball. So it left a deep impact on me,” Ashwin said.
Harbhajan, who picked up 15 wickets in that match, also recalled the incident.
“I was feeling disappointed because Hayden went on to score a double ton. And Bahutule couldn’t take many wickets despite bowling well. But he told me to let go of it and said these things happen. He was actually my room partner during that Test but he never mentioned about the incident even after we returned to our room,” Harbhajan said.
Veteran India spinner Harbhajan Singh on Tuesday rejected the perception that he is jealous of Ravinchandran Ashwin, saying the Tamil Nadu bowler is a “legend in making”.
Watch the full conversation here: