It's good to have left-armer but don't need to go crazy about it: Zaheer Khan
Indian team management's fascination for a left-arm pacer in its ranks is well-known but the country's best ever practitioner of the trade Zaheer Khan feels that one shouldn't go 'crazy or overboard' if the bowler in question is not ready for the challenge.
In the past few years, India have tried a number of left-arm fast bowlers, including Barinder Sran and Jaydev Unadkat, the latest being Mohammed Khaleel, who has been dropped after an indifferent series in New Zealand.
"If you have that variation (left-armer's), it's certainly an advantage but you don't have to go crazy about trying to find a left-armer. It is all about contributing to team's cause. Left-arm pacers are natural talent and you don't have control over when you will get one," Zaheer, who is a mentor for the Ferit Cricket Bash (FCB), said on Wednesday.
Khaleel looked completely out of depth in New Zealand, where conditions were conducive for swing bowling and the veteran of 95 Tests feels that the youngster has some catching up to do.
"Yes, the length that (Khaleel bowled) was on the shorter side for sure. In conditions, where there is help for swing bowling, you have to get the ball right up there (pitch it up) and these are things the bowler has to learn at this level," Zaheer said.
However, the highest wicket-taker in the 2011 World Cup is confident that Khaleel could learn a thing or two from teammate Jasprit Bumrah, who has made rapid strides in international cricket.
"For Khaleel, it's still early days in his career. Talent-wise, he is there but at this level, it's all about how quickly you can learn and adapt to pressures of international cricket. Look at Bumrah and how he has evolved as a bowler and you get a comparison."
"Bumrah has learnt a lot and is always adding new things to his armoury, which is very important and bowlers like Khaleel need to take inspiration from. Spend more time with Bumrah, ask him questions," said Zaheer, who was a mentor to junior pacers during the business end of his career.
But the biggest advantage for Khaleel, according to Zaheer is that there is good support system in the Indian team, which allows him to get proper guidance.
"It is all about how you evolve in your journey to become a good fast bowler and his journey so far has been good. He has been getting right kind of guidance through and through and at the international level, he has shown the glimpse of what he can deliver. So now, it's up to him to get up to the speed of international cricket."
Zaheer is happy that India now have a proper pack of speed merchants, who can share each other's burden in tough conditions.
Reminded of times when he didn't have a good back-up seamer in Test matches alongside him, Zaheer said: "When the burden is shared, it's always comfortable isn't it? You will get results for sure."
"It was evident during the last year or so for India. Our pacers were consistently taking wickets and they are being shared. It shows that different bowlers have put their hands up in different situations and that's one heartening thing about the Australia series as well," said Zaheer.
The Indian pace attack has taken the maximum wickets by a quartet during the last year breaking the record of the famed West Indies quartet of Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding.
"If you go through matches, you will see different bowlers have had impact at different situations in the series. And that's something which is very important. You had a Bumrah spell in Melbourne and Shami had a few fantastic spells and then Ashwin in Adelaide when he took three wickets," the former India international said.
Talking about Ferit Cricket Bash, Zaheer is happy that it will be a platform for amateur cricketers to enjoy the game like never before. The promoters of this concept are Jasmit Bhatia and Mitesh Sharma.
"Jasmit and Mitesh are passionate and they approached me as they wanted to give platform to all amateur cricketers. I could relate to that. The amateur cricketers have to go all their way to find out which ground is available, what are the timings, form a team.
"Now all those things will be taken care of and myself, Chris Gayle and Muralitharan will come and guide the players in phases. It's giving them a platform to enjoy," he signed off.