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Indian cricket’s King Khan


My name is Khan. Zaheer Khan.
He’ll never be rated above Kapil Dev, nor will he ever be considered in the same class as fellow left-hand fast bowler Wasim Akram. Yet, there is something about Zaheer that makes his special for the Indian team.
Look at the ongoing series in South Africa. He missed the first Test in Centurion and India clearly lacked the bite in their attack. There were the Harbhajan Singhs and the Sreesanths, yet the lethal touch was somehow, absent.
Zak was back in Durban and the Indian attack suddenly looked so much more dangerous. In fact, it was Zaheer who set the tone for a victory, getting three crucial wickets in the first innings. That included openers Alviro Petersen, Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince, all three important wickets which eventually shaped the victory. If VVS Laxman’s 96 was crucial, so was Zaheer’s early spell, which shook South Africa’s foundation. The Proteas have a very strong batting line-up and it is not easy to ruffle them. Zaheer did just that and the result: A victory.
Zaheer is currently one of the better fast bowlers in world cricket, although he might not have got his due. He has been overshadowed by other Indian greats of this era, even though his contributions may have been equally good. Zaheer may not have got a bagful of wickets each time he has donned Indian colours, but he has given the team crucial breakthroughs at key moments.
If you look at the statistics, Zaheer’s figures are not as impressive as some of the others. In just over a decade of Test cricket, he has grabbed 267 wickets at an average of 31.85. Those coming in 77 Tests. Zaheer has, at times, lacked consistency, but more importantly, has been dogged by injuries. He was even dropped for lack of form. But he came back with vengeance after proving himself in the domestic circuit.
Statistics do not always reflect true talent. In fact, a bowler’s rewards are not these numbers, but the respect he receives from the batsmen. Zaheer would be satisfied in this aspect. Batsmen have often referred to him as India’s most lethal bowler. If Mahendra Singh Dhoni says Zaheer has been India’s best bowler in the past two years, he must be having his reasons. After all, Dhoni has played against the best bowlers in these couple of years and has the right credentials to judge his most dangerous weapon.
When Zaheer decides to call it day, he might well rue the fact that he hasn’t really lived up to his potential. He might blame that on the innumerable breakdown that he suffered throughout his career. The problem with Zaheer is that even if he provides India with crucial breakthrough in a game, you are never sure if he would be available for the next one. For all you know, he might have pulled a hamstring or strained a groin muscle. It’s something that he has no control over and it is perhaps too late to correct that.
A fit Zaheer is crucial to India’s fortunes. Even if he does not get wickets, his presence would be enough for the opponents to be on the edge. After all, he might produce a lethal one, capable of changing the course of the game, just when things seem to going smoothly. That’s what makes Zaheer so special

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