Zip, Zak, Zoom and Zaheer Goes to 300 - The New Indian Express

Zip, Zak, Zoom and Zaheer Goes to 300

Published: 23rd December 2013 01:33 AM

Last Updated: 23rd December 2013 01:33 AM

In numbers we trust. But with Zaheer Khan, the second most successful Indian pace bowler, numbers are only partially suggestive of his high art. What it doesn’t depict is the plotting and skill that has forewarned each of his strike, the cunning that has underlined his sublime art so much so that numbers, at times, feels irrelevant when discussing Zaheer Khan.

[View Gallery: Zaheer Joins 300 Club]

Zaheer Khan waves to the dressing room after bagging his 300th Test wicket at Johannesburg | AP
One of the least articulate cricketers of his generation, it’s tough to psychoanalyse Zaheer. All you can gauge of the workings of his mind is the glimpses he occasionally reveals on the field. Even that has changed drastically over the course of his 13-year career, from an over-zealous rookie, spraying the ball around at pace, capable of occasional destruction to a man at peace with his craft and gifts, the redoubtable linchpin, the go-to man for skippers from Rahul Dravid to Anil Kumble to MS Dhoni, the spooky jinx for left-handed openers.

There are three distinct phases of his career. The first, when he rattled stumps with toe-crushers. The second when he befooled batsmen with both pace and swing. The third when he undid them with his mind. Separating each of these phases were issues of fitness, injuries and indifferent form. That he endured each of this tenuous passage and riposted tells you something remarkable of his mind—the fortitude, courage and self-belief to scythe through times tumultuous.

What shone through each of his comeback was his ability to take stock of the present. When a mix of injuries and waywardness forced him out of the team in mid noughties, he corrected chinks that had crept into his technique and took his international wilderness as a blessing to nuance his craft in county cricket. He returned a more rounded bowler with stunning success, triggering the best phase of his career, a six-year stretch when Zaheer was arguably the finest new-ball operator in the world.

However, the catastrophic England series, wherein he hobbled off in the first Test at the Lords’, also persecuted Zaheer’s career into scrutiny. And after he was eventually overlooked after the humbling home loss to England in 2012, it seemed Zaheer’s career has passed into its inevitable epilogue. At 35, with an injury-prone, he wasn’t to make another comeback.

But stop, we are talking of Zaheer. And what does he do? He goes to South France, embraces a set of unconventional training regime, returns fit and fuming, and takes wickets in domestic matches. And lo he returns to take the shining cherry for Team India. And lo, he takes his 300th wicket.  How many more? With Zaheer, speculations are best kept asunder.

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