Zaheer Khan drowned the demons of 2003 in the Arabian Sea on Saturday. That World Cup final against Australia in Johannesburg was a nightmare and despite having a mixed day as a bowler on Saturday, he put the past to rest for ever.
An understudy of Javagal Srinath eight years ago and the
leader of the India pace attack now, Zaheer looked to bury the past by bowling three maiden overs on the trot, which is a rare feat. The last three overs cost him 44, but he would take it, for his team had the last laugh.
It didn't matter in the end that Zaheer did not have the best of days despite a memorable start. Overcoming a groin problem and leading a fragile attack from the front, his role in the triumph was important.
Zaheer's 2003 campaign had come to a disastrous end. Sourav Ganguly had elected to field on that day in the hope that his fast bowlers would exploit the overcast conditions.
Zaheer, however, got it wrong from the first ball, being called for overstepping. He bowled 10 deliveries to complete the over as more no-balls and wides followed. The over cost him 15 runs, his first three yielded 29 and he finally settled for none for 67 in seven overs.
Saturday started with the promise of a turnaround. After the three maiden overs, during which saw just a bye and leg-bye, Zaheer got Upul Tharanga with one that bounced a bit more to surprise the batsman, who tried in vain to get his bat away at the last moment.
After an amazing first spell that read 5-3-6-1, Zaheer gave away an acceptable eight runs in his next two overs and MS Dhoni couldn't be faulted for bringing on his main bowler for three of the last five overs, which incidentally, also constituted the batting Powerplay. That was the period when Zaheer lost it and so did India. Starting the Powerplay at 211 for five, Sri Lanka rocketted to 274 with Zaheer bearing the brunt. The late surrender to the Sri Lanka batsmen threatened to be costly but became meaningless as the end was exhilarating.