Saurav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh Photograph:( AFP )
During his career, Harbhajan won two World Cups -- the inaugural ICC World T20 in 2007 and then the ODI World Cup in 2011. He took 417 wickets in 103 Tests, 269 wickets in 236 ODIs and 25 scalps in 28 T20Is.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly congratulated just-retired Harbhajan Singh on a glorious career, saying the one aspect of the veteran off-spinner that inspired him the most was his "hunger to perform".
Harbhajan Singh called time on his career on Friday after an illustrious 23-year stint in international cricket.
During his career, he won two World Cups -- the inaugural ICC World T20 in 2007 and then the ODI World Cup in 2011. He took 417 wickets in 103 Tests, 269 wickets in 236 ODIs and 25 scalps in 28 T20Is.
"I congratulate Harbhajan Singh on a remarkable career. He has faced several challenges in his life, but Bhajji is not the one to give up. He has overcome many hurdles and put many setbacks behind him to rise every time. What inspired me the most about him was his hunger to perform," Ganguly said in a BCCI statement.
"His strength was his guts and courage. He was always very passionate, and his immense self-belief meant he never shied away from a fight. He also kept the dressing room atmosphere light and that is something really important," added the former captain, who had lot of faith in Harbhajan's abilities and brought him back during that epic series against Australia in 2001.
Ganguly rated Harbhajan's breath-taking performance against Aussies as one of the best, saying the off-spinner was always a "captain's delight".
"His first full Test series against Australia in 2001 is the greatest that I have seen where one bowler single-handedly won the series. He was a captain's delight.
"As a bowler, he hated putting fielders in the deep. Bhajji has been an absolute match-winner. He should be proud of what he has achieved. I want to tell him that the new innings in his life will be as exciting."
A fierce competitor, Harbhajan ended his glittering career as the fourth-highest wicket-taker from India in Tests with 417 wickets and fifth among Indian bowlers in ODIs with 269 scalps.
Having debuted in 1998 against Australia in Bengaluru first as a 17-year-old, Harbhajan represented the country for close to two decades. He featured in the elite 100-Test club and is only the second Indian spinner after Anil Kumble to have played over 100 Tests for India.
He holds the honour of being the first Indian to take a Test hat-trick when he dismissed Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne in successive balls in the famous 2001 Kolkata Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
His astonishing match tally of 13/196 helped the team to a stunning victory as India became only the third team to win a Test after being forced to follow on.
Harbhajan also played a key role in helping India win the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 and was later instrumental in India becoming the first team to win a World Cup at home in 2011.
"Harbhajan Singh has had a phenomenal career with Team India. He has been a part of many memorable victories both at home and away. He played his cricket with grit and passion and wore his heart on his sleeve. His fighting spirit and his zeal to perform for India when the team was under pressure is something that always stood out," BCCI secretary Jay Shah said.
"His presence on the field lifted everyone's morale. While he played a major role with the ball, picking up wickets aplenty, it must be remembered that he has also played some crucial knocks with the bat, helping us get over the line. I wish him the best for all his future endeavours and wish to see him being closely associated with the game."