Saturday, February 20, 2010


Oh no, it's not the Bollywood blockbuster that I am talking about. That one's aleady been the eye of a big storm already. I am talking about the new leader of India's pace attack... Zaheer Khan.

Cricinfo gave Zak a 7 out of 10 for his performance in the Ind-SA series. But numbers count for very little over here. He is 31 - an age where most pace bowlers go through the best phases of their respective careers. It's no different for Zak.

He burst into the international scene by yorking the batsmen facing him - a fast bowler's most potent weapon. Ironically, at the peak of his career, the yorker is the most rarely used weapon. The fast, aggressive, stare-into-the-batsman's-eyes-in-a-World-Cup-final bowler has now been replaced by a little gentler, but a lot more dangerous swing bowler, who has taken over the mantle of India's premier paceman with some admirable performances over the past 4 years.

At a time when India is truly grappling with the question of whether Harbhajan Singh (irrespective of his Eden Garden performance) is a worthy successor to Anil Kumble as the premier spinner in the country, it is the safety net that Zak offers that has helped India hold onto the No. 1 ranking in Test cricket.

Having taken 488 international wickets for the country, Zak has, for quite some time now, been the only consistent element in India's bowling ranks, especially in Tests. From the start of 2007, Zak has bowled 1000.1 overs in Test cricket, taking 113 wickets at 29.43 (his overall career average is 32.98). This period has also brought him his best bowling figures in an innings and in a match.

But here's the interesting piece of stat: 70 out of his 113 wickets (61.95%) in this period have been of batsmen who have scored less than 20 runs. Yes, even the numbers say that he has been the bowler that Dhoni (and Kumble and Dravid before him) have turned to for attacking a new batsman and getting his wicket.

What has been heartwarming to see is that all the opposition batsmen have started howing him a lot of respect - something that has rarely happenned with Indian pacers of the past. Not only his bunnies like Greame Smith, but even other contemporary greats and opposition captains like Ricky Ponting have acknowledged the importance of seeing Zaheer's spell through. Even MS Dhoni gives up his field setting authorities to Zak when he or Ishant Sharma are bowling. He might well be the new fast bowling coach of Team India.

His reverse swing bowling to dismiss Brad Haddin, Cameron White and Brett Lee (where he reversed the ball both ways) bowled - caught behind - bowled at Mohali in October 2008 was one of the highlights of this period.

As a fast bowler, it won't be long before injuries start plaguing him and being on the wrong side of 30, he is bound to tire out soon (especially with the amount of cricket that India plays these days). But I'd like to see him carry on as much as he can because India needs him. India needs him to hold onto the No. 1 ranking in Test cricket. India needs him to be there if there has to be chance in the 2011 World Cup. India needs him to be there to guide the younger generation of pacers and groom them for the responsibilities lying ahead - the responsibilities that he has carried with admirable ease.

1 comment:

greyblazer said...

I do like Zaheer for his never say die spirit.