LONDON: Excited to be back into the national fold after a gap of more than a year, India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has said he is aware he would have to start afresh when he takes the field against New Zealand later this month.
Harbhajan has been recalled to the Test team after he took three for 35 in Essex's winning cause against Kent, in a County Championship match on Friday.
"It is special. It is good to be back in the team. It is another opportunity to do well. I have played for so many years but that has all gone. I need to start fresh. I am very excited to be part of the team," Harbhajan said.
The senior spinner last played for India on August 1, 2011 before he left the England tour mid-way due to a stomach injury.
At that time he was just two matches away from becoming only the ninth Indian cricketer to play 100 Tests. But injuries coupled with a dip in form and the lack of faith from the selectors saw him stranded at 98 matches.
He missed the home series against the West Indies, the away tour of Australia, the Asia Cup and recently the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka.
Admitting that it was a "very hard and tough year", Harbhajan said, "Nobody would like to be outside the team but as Rahul (Dravid) mentioned it is difficult to make comebacks than playing first time for India. It is much more difficult for a guy like me who has played for 12 years, had a very successful career and then suddenly you are out of the team.
"Then you have to work even harder and you have to compete with yourself to do even better. Having already set some standards through your various performances you are competing with yourself. You have to step one further now. For that you have to work even more harder, remain even more focused and start again from the scratch."
The 32-year-old also added that despite working hard nothing had clicked for him in the past one year.
"You work even harder but nothing clicked -- I tried everything but either I was getting injured or I was not getting the rewards. Even your failure and your success cannot be taken for granted. When you are going through a good patch you tend to ignore certain things. It could be your sleeping habits, it could be waking up at 6 am and going for a jog, it could be a gym session.
"You think you know you have to do all things. But when you come out of the team, you get injured, you are not doing that well and then you realise these are the things I am missing," Harbhajan insisted.
Harbhajan, who took about three months to recover from the stomach injury, later led Mumbai Indians to the title in the Champions League Twenty20 before he was once again hit by a shin injury.
"My focus completely shifted towards these frequent injuries. I wondered why this was happening."
The bowler said that now he would like to enjoy the game. "I just want to go and enjoy the game because I felt during the time out I had forgotten to enjoy the game. Even in the IPL I was under pressure which came out of my own expectations. I was feeling like: I need to lead the side well, I need to perform well to comeback into the side. So that probably affected my chances."