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Looking beyond Zaheer Khan

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Zaheer Khan
Before any series begins, it is always interesting to see which players get picked and which are left out. As two of the most interesting Test series are about to start, team selections have been the pretty ladies in a crowded room of old men (centre of attraction). Australia will take the field for the first Test without Shane Watson. Their strategy of pulling Watson out of the CLT20 though judicious was still unsuccessful. It means Australia will not be at full strength when they take on the mighty South Africans. As tantalizing a contest Rob Quiney facing up to Dale Steyn and co. promises to be, it’s no Obama v/s Romney. In a way it could be a blessing for Australia. With no Watson, Clarke could come in at number three which is a much better position for him. Every cricketing pundit agrees the number three position is important in Test cricket and a corollary would be the best batsman should bat at that position. Currently, Michael Clarke is Australia’s best and not Quiney. However, it’s hard to imagine the batsmen will have too much of an impact in this series. It appears to be a battle of the quick men. Both teams have fast bowlers the entire cricketing world envies, especially India.

India take on England with a clear plan in mind – spin. Prepare spinning tracks and expose England’s weakness. In a 15 member squad, only three fast bowlers have been named. Considering the series is in India, it is a fair decision. But, for argument’s sake does India have a fit fast bowler worthy enough to be included in the team? Pankaj Singh and Ashok Dinda are nearest to the spotlight. Sreesanth reels under injury and is more interested in furthering his reel life. Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel sadly, do not seem like Test quality fast bowlers. Perhaps a bit harsh, but true nevertheless. Ishant Sharma looks the part but needs to back it up with wickets while Umesh Yadav is still learning. Varun Aaron already looks a fragile piece. It’s hard to learn much when you spend most of your time recovering from injury.

For now, India seems content on letting Zaheer Khan lead the pack. However, the time has come for India to look beyond him. In the last two years, Zaheer has missed 11 Test matches out of the 21 India played. He has maintained that the more he bowls, the better he gets. Unfortunately, the more he bowls the longer he stays out of the game due to injuries. As much as he would like to deny it, the extra training that goes into being a fit fast bowler is absolutely essential. Running, sprinting and getting rid of the excess body fat provides for a smoother run-up and more zest in the delivery stride. The part after that, the delivery itself, is something Zaheer has mastered. Hence, he has always managed to pick up two-three wickets every inning. However, his last five wicket haul in an innings came against Australia in 2010, 13 Tests ago.

Zaheer Khan: Bowling Statistics in last 2 years (Tests)

Mat Inn Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave ER SR 5/10
Tests 10 17 335.1 65 1010 34 4/69 7/130 29.7 3.01 59.1 0/0

At home, in the last 3 Tests he has picked up only 7 wickets. Not something one would expect from the strike bowler.

Zaheer Khan: Bowling Statistics by venue in last 2 years (Tests)

Venue Mat Inn Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave ER SR 5/10
Home 3 6 94.5 22 269 7 4/69 4/90 38.42 2.83 81.2 0/0
Away 7 11 240.2 43 741 27 4/77 7/130 27.44 3.08 53.4 0/0

Of course, the experience he brings and the confidence he gives the other bowlers in the team cannot be disregarded. With him on the field, the bowling unit looks completely different. But it is evidently clear that Zak does not have much left in him. It is about time India starts looking beyond him. His contribution to the Indian team is so huge that it makes it difficult to look past him. The time has come though, to search for raw fast bowlers from the deepest corners of Indian cricket. Jammu Kashmir might throw up some interesting players. Abid Nabi was supposed to be a raw fast bowler. Wouldn’t hurt to keep a close eye on him, would it? The search must begin.

Stats by: Karna Yajnik



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