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Home > Cricket > India in the United Kingdom 2007 > Interview


The Rediff Cricket Interview / Zaheer Khan

'I was sure I would comeback'

August 10, 2007


Zaheer Khan

Part I: 'Bowling in short spells has worked for me'

In the second part of his interview with Harish Kotian, Zaheer Khan [Images] talks about his comeback and what made him start bowling round the wicket:

Some experts are comparing you with Wasim Akram. Like him, you bowled so well round the wicket and swung the ball both ways from that angle. How was it possible?

Wasim Akram is a great bowler. He is the greatest left-arm bowler the world has ever seen. It is a privilege that people are comparing me with him. But that also definitely puts a lot of pressure on me and I hope I will be able to do justice to do that.

Again, everything comes back to bowling more and getting control. Akram told me that he used to practice a lot, bowl a lot in the nets. Whenever he would get an opportunity he would keep bowling, trying to learn different things. He said he would try and do something with the ball if nothing was happening off the wicket. I got that opportunity when I was playing in county matches; I got an opportunity to experiment with things.

It started after Bangladesh, when I was bowling wayward. To balance that I started to bowl round the wicket. After that I tried it when I played first class cricket in India. I have been bowling round the wicket very often if there is some reverse swing.

Have you bowled so many overs round the wicket ever before in your career?

I must have bowled in some first class game [in India]. But when the ball is swinging that much it is a good option.

How difficult was it to shorten your run-up midway through your career?

I was tending to jump quite high with the long run-up. That was also causing me some injury worries and problems. If you recall, I was getting injured very often in those two years after the 2003 World Cup. A lot of people were telling me then that the high jump could be contributing to my frequent injury breakdowns.

When I was talking to Dennis Lillee, he told me that at some stage of my career I should be looking to cut down on my run-up because I was not getting much from it. That is because I was not really accelerating that much. Dennis advised me about that long ago, but because I was playing international cricket regularly I did not want to take a chance. These are things that you want to work on.

Zaheer KhanWhen I was struggling with injuries and was out of the team I played domestic matches in India. That's the time I got the opportunity and worked on it. The first time I tried it [the short run-up] was in a domestic match two or three years back. I took about 30 wickets in the tournament [2005 Duleep Trophy] and West Zone were the champions.

In that first match I bowled from a short run-up because I had a slight muscle strain and I was not able to run a long distance. But I was still part of the match and so I thought let me bowl from a short run-up; I got six wickets in the second innings, and said to myself why not continue, because I was bowling effectively and everyone said I was able to swing the ball and hit the bat at a decent pace. I decided that I would continue with it.

Since returning to the Indian team last year for the tour to South Africa your performances have been top-notch. How delighted are you with it?

Obviously, I am very happy that things have gone well for me. At the same time it also means responsibility on me to go forward now. A lot of top series are coming up, so I am just keeping my focus and rhythm going. I am not giving myself any break and keeping in touch with the game.

How did it feel coming back into the team. Was there any extra pressure on you during your first tour after the comeback, in South Africa?

I have been playing international cricket for long now. I was struggling in between, but I always had faith in my abilities. I was in good rhythm in the county matches too [last year] but the first few matches [in South Africa] were important, as when you play after a long time the pressure is always there.

Lot of nerves were there in the one-day series. It was good that we played the one-day matches before the Test matches. That gave me bit of a cushion to calm my nerves down and prepare for the Test matches in a better way.

How much advice do you seek from experts?

I do talk to a lot of people, but maybe not that deeply. I do talk to senior bowlers whenever I get an opportunity. Obviously, working with Dennis Lillee was great; I was with him for three years. After that whenever I am playing internationals and get an opportunity, I talk to the senior bowlers.

Sri [Javagal Srinath], when he was playing with me, helped a lot. Venkatesh [Prasad] has been around for help. In between, when I was struggling in Bangladesh, around 3-4 years back, I spoke to Wasim Akram as well. So over the years I have been talking to seniors whenever I got the opportunity. Maybe I didn't have special sessions, but just a light talk.

How do see yourself settling when you reach 30. How do you foresee your role in the team in a few years from now?

I think it's going to be the same. I think I have done the right thing by cutting short my run-up and it is working well for me. I hope to continue with it and I believe it is going to help me in the longer run. I do not want to change anything.

Have you become more aggressive? We saw your aggression in the 2003 World Cup did not work, but in this series it seems to be working.

It is all part and parcel of the game. Sometimes you are successful showing the aggression, while sometimes you are not, like it happened in the final of the 2003 World Cup [against Australia]. I was not successful showing aggression then, but here I am.

So sometimes it works for you and sometimes it doesn't. But, if you see, fast bowlers all over the world are aggressive. That's something which comes naturally to a fast bowler; so sometimes you are successful and sometimes you are not.

But few years back you used to smile at batsmen when you beat them�

If I end up beating the batsmen often, then I laugh at that, because if I am bowling well and he is surviving, he is lucky.

Last year, when you were out of the Indian team, did it ever cross your mind that maybe you were hitting the end?

To be honest, that thought never crossed my mind, because I was quite sure that I would comeback into the team. I was very clear in the mind about that.

When you were out, did the criticism that you were not serious about your game and overall attitude hurt you?

Again, it is part and parcel of what field you are into. When you are doing well people praise you; if you are not doing well people will criticize you. You must take the good with the bad and always to look to go forward; that is what I was doing too. I was always thinking of controlling the 'controllables' and what was in my hands.

I knew I was out of the team and that I had to comeback, but how I was going to comeback was important. That was on my mind. I analysed the situation and was trying to stay positive that time. I was in control of myself and was not really thinking of what was happening around me. I was just thinking about what I was going to do.

A major part of a cricketer's upbringing in his career is the company he keeps. How important is the company of some of the seniors in the team?

It makes a huge difference being with all great players in the dressing room and looking at the way they prepare for the game. People like Rahul [Dravid], [VVS] Laxman and Anil [Kumble] for that matter. Anil has been such a dedicated guy to cricket and he is so disciplined in whatever he does.

As a youngster I have watched it in the dressing room. Everyone looks to follow their example; like what time they sleep, how they prepare for the game and especially the big performances. You see that whenever a big game comes up. How they lift their game is something you look forward to and learn from.



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