In 2001, India was convalescing from one of the sable phases in the history of Indian cricket. Saurav Ganguly was shouldered with the onus of leading the team and not only was he battling with the turpitude scandals off the field but on the field, his team was completely new, trying to create something for themselves.
Stuck in such a precarious juncture, Ganguly had another herculean task that stationed itself right at his doorstep as the irrepressible Australians were on an Indian tour and he had to stave the might of the invincible with a bunch of youth and limited experience from Tendulkar and Dravid.
As expected, India tumbled like a house of the cards in the first innings of the first Test, insinuating a long night of torment to arrive. However, shining like a tiny glimmer of hope in an otherwise gray sky, Harbhajan Singh, a young off-spinner managed to rattle 4 crucial wickets in the Australian first innings that cut them within 349 runs. Though India really couldn’t turn things around in the second innings, the young offie offered a staunch resistance with the bat and stayed unbeaten.
With a 1-0 lead, Australia was well en route to decimate the Indian brigade in the Mecca of Indian cricket at Eden Gardens. India started roaring on the first day of the second Test as Harbhajan became the first Indian bowler to claim a hat-trick in Test cricket that saw him bagging the scalps of Ponting, Gilchrist and Shane Warne in consecutive deliveries. However, Australia flipped the tide around with a ginormous partnership between Jason Gillespie and Steve Waugh that ended up derailing India’s hopes. However, the man in the limelight, Harbhajan, continued with his rampage as he went on to pick up seven wickets in the innings.
India’s batting woes continued as they were bundled for a paltry 171 in the first innings and Australia imposed a follow-on that clearly relayed the sign of another catastrophe to arrive. Things changed from here on as the Indian resistance started brewing through Ganguly and then evolved into an unbeatable stand between Dravid and Laxman. The duo crafted a 376 runs partnership that threw a spanner in the Australian plans and India posted a target of 383 runs for the visitors to chase.
Despite bragging of a tremendous batting depth, Harbhajan Singh chimed in with another wondrous performance that crushed Australia into a humiliating pulp as India went on to chronicle a remarkable victory that also had symbolic importance laced with it. This is also where the rise of Harbhajan Singh began.
In the series decider, Australia was once rampant with the willow and managed to pile up 391 runs in the first innings of the third Test. However, the man who once again snuffed out their aspirations midway was Harbhajan Singh who claimed seven wickets in the innings. India crafted an equally brilliant response that saw them cruising to a titanic lead.
Australia came a cropper for the umpteenth time to this newcomer who once again claimed eight wickets in the second innings of Australia, leaving the stars of the invincible squad bemused and baffled. India had some tough time chasing the modest total but they eventually managed to chase down the total with two wickets to spare.
Now the question is why did I go ahead and tell you all a story that has been reiterated to you by several channels in the form of highlights a gazillion times? The primary reason for this entire narration is to explain the symbolic importance of this one man called Harbhajan Singh, the mysterious off-spinner whom Australia could never crack, no matter how great they were.
It is a common question that how exactly did Harbhajan stumble across the sobriquet of “Turbanator”. It echoes a lot like an amalgamation of two words and they are ‘terminator’ and ‘turban’. Yes, you got it right, the word ‘Turbanator’ is indeed a blend of these two words. Ideally, the first to use this term for Harbhajan was an Australian journalist who claimed that an Indian bowler who wears a turban terminated the Australian squad without any ado. Ladies, and gentlemen, this is where we give you the nickname of the famous Indian off-spinner, the man who went on to terminate all other stalwarts of the sport.