India discard off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has been signed up by English county club Essex for the second half of the county season. The 31-year-old, who has taken 683 international wickets, has been left out of the India squad since last summer's tour to England. Harbhajan's previous county experience have been with Surrey in 2004 and 2007. The spinner will be reach mid-July and will be available to play for the eight remaining county matches till the end of the season, plus the county's seven remaining matches in the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition.
His first appearance is scheduled for the match against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham July 11 subject to receiving a British visa in time. Essex head coach Paul Grayson has welcomed the signing. "We are delighted to have signed one of the best spinners in world cricket over the last 10 years or so. Harbhajan is a great character who is a match winner and I believe that his winning mentality will rub off on the rest of the playing squad here at Essex.
"I am really excited at the prospect of having him in the squad and this signing for the second half of the season shows that Essex mean business and will continue to fight in the County Championship & Clydesdale Bank 40 formats of the game," Grayson said in a statement released by Essex. Harbhajan, 31, has played 98 Test Matches for India and 227 One Day Internationals.
His Test appearances have yielded 406 wickets with a career-best 8-44 against Australia at Chennai in 2001 while he has also taken 7 wickets in an innings for India on six occasions. The right-arm off-spinner has also claimed 255 one-day international victims. As an attacking-minded bowler who is highly regarded for his ball control and ability to vary his length and pace, Harbhajan is amongst the top ten of highest wicket-takers in Test history and is the third-highest Test wicket-taker among all Indian Test bowlers.
He made his Test debut in 1998 against Australia at Bangalore. He is no stranger to Chelmsford, having taken 7-83 and 1-23 when Essex met India in a drawn match at The Ford County Ground back in 2002. His haul of victims in the first innings included his 300th wicket in first-class matches when he dismissed Jon Dakin.