Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh considers himself a better bowler now than when he shot into the limelight, taking 32 wickets against Australia in the momentous series of 2000-01.
"I am more confident now than I was in 2001. Then, I was not sure if I would do it again," said the Punjab offie, who on Thursday became the fastest Indian to 200 Test wickets in the first Test against Zimbabwe.
Harbhajan reached the milestone in his 46th Test while his senior teammate Anil Kumble needed 47. Harbhajan is also the second youngest to touch the landmark, the world record standing in the name of Kapil Dev.
"When I made my debut in 1998-99, I was new and did not believe in myself. I just wanted to take two wickets and remain in the team," Harbhajan said.
But he has grown in confidence since and "wants the team to do well" even if he does not take three wickets.
The spinner also emphasised the fact that he needs to continue improving to remain successful in international cricket.
"It all happened so quickly. Now will be the tough period since batsmen around the world know your stuff. If I work hard and remain consistent, the graph will go up," Harbhajan said.
Talk about the Harbhajan-Anil Kumble combination and he feels the duo does not receive the praise and recognition they deserve.
"You get more respect only when you leave the game. Hopefully, we would have done enough to be spoken about in the same manner as the famous spin quartet of the 70s by the time we leave," Harbhajan said.
Harbhajan said he could not care less about some match referees who, he felt, are intent on nit-picking on his action.
"Three times I have given tests and come clean. Sometimes you wonder why you alone were being pulled up, but then it is not in your hands.
"It does disturb you, more so when it happens in the middle of the series. For example, on the first day of the Bangalore Test against Pakistan I was afraid. I could not concentrate fully," he said.
Harbhajan said the International Cricket Council needs to devise precise guidelines to deal with the issue of suspect bowling actions.
"I feel ICC should do so [check a bowler's action] at the beginning of somebody's career. But not after someone has played for 50-60 Tests or picked 500 wickets. Once you have cleared him, it makes no sense to haul him over and over the coals.
"ButI have learnt to live with it. I have realised I have to work hard, not only on the ground but also outside for my success," he emphasised.
Askedabout who he turns to in moments of crisis, he said his teammates, especially Kimble, give him good advice, as "he knows me so well".
Hesaid he did not interact much with spinners of the past, who, he claimed, "ignored me".
Harbhajanadmitted that he does lose his cool on the field sometimes when a decision does not go his way or when he is simply annoyed with himself.
"Sometimesyou are annoyed at umpires for a wrong decision given. For example, Jacques Kallis was caught on five in Kolkata last season but was not given out. I did get him later, but by then he had added 80 more runs."
Confessingthat playing in the Brisbane Test during India's last tour Down Under was a "bad decision," the spinner said, "I was worried for the only time in my career as my finger had swelled up after only two overs.
"Ireally wanted to take on Australia on their own pitch and let the team and myself down."
Harbhajandescribed the coming season as one of the toughest India has come across in recent times.
"SriLanka are visiting and they would be very tough. In my opinion, after Australia, they are the side against whom we could struggle to win on home pitches.
"They have good batsmen who play spin well and have match-winningbowlers in Murali and Vaas. We have to play really well," he said.
"Thenwe tour Pakistan and it would not be easy. Same with England who are playing really well. I realised in county cricket this summer that they have started to play spin very well."
Harbhajan rates Australia as the toughest batting line-upin the world and admires a few batsmen who play him better than the rest.
"AndyFlower was a very good player of spin. Brian Lara, I have not played enough but I admire him for his quick feet movement. Steve Waugh was good as is Jason Gillespie for his defensive technique!"
Harbhajanhas seen a few youngsters in the National Cricket Academy to feel positive about the future of the art. He feels spin remains India's best chance to win Tests.
"I have seen a couple of good leg-spinnersin the NCA. There is also a good left-arm spinner. They need proper guidance and not just one match after which they are not heard again!
"Weshould stick to spin as it is our strength. If we want to have seaming tracks then it is better they are made available in domestic cricket first," he added.