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Numbers back Zak impact

On a day when Virender Sehwag cracked 96, Harbhajan Singh took four wickets and Gautam Gambhir ended a brief lean run by making 56, the two wickets that Zaheer Khan took looked like a lesser deed, certainly in terms of numbers. Atreyo Mukhopadhyay reports.

cricket Updated: Nov 13, 2010 23:18 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

On a day when Virender Sehwag cracked 96, Harbhajan Singh took four wickets and Gautam Gambhir ended a brief lean run by making 56, the two wickets that Zaheer Khan took looked like a lesser deed, certainly in terms of numbers.

But then, Test cricket is not all about numbers. The impact one makes is equally important, if not more, and looking at the way India pulled New Zealand back, it’s impossible to overlook the role Zaheer played.

On Friday, it was he who ensured that India took two wickets in the last session after getting just one each in the first two. The next day, it was he who had to strike with the second new ball because Sreesanth was erratic in a couple of two-over spells and Pragyan Ojha went for 10 runs in the one over he bowled in between. Even Zaheer was struggling to land it in the right area against the left-handed Jesse Ryder despite getting the ball to swing away from the batsman. So he went around the wicket and won two leg-before shouts against right-handers in four overs by getting the ball to move back enough into them.

“It’s been great to have Zak in that kind of form,” said Harbhajan, who ran through the opening created by Zaheer to hasten the end of the New Zealand innings. “He has been doing it consistently for the last two years. To do that in Indian conditions, where visiting fast bowlers have struggled, is a great achievement.”

Harbhajan couldn’t have summed it up more perfectly. Zaheer has probably been the most influential individual in the Indian attack during the period when the team rose to the top of world Test rankings. New ball or old, striking early or breaking partnerships, Zaheer has done it all, against big names such as Matthew Hayden and Graeme Smith.

“He’s a smart bowler, who knows what his strengths are,” Harbhajan said. “He knows what he wants and also knows what his best chances are if he is to get what he wants.”

Having said that numbers are not always that important, a look at Zaheer’s performance in India in the last two years might give one an idea of the impact he has made. From January 2009, he has taken 36 wickets in nine Tests including this one and India have won five of those. Numbers do convey something at times.