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Zak makes it possible

After the famous win, Dravid has special praise for Zaheer, whose 9 wkts set up the game for India, writes Rohit Mahajan

cricket Updated: Aug 01, 2007 01:05 IST
Rohit Mahajan

After the win most famous, Indian captain Rahul Dravid apportioned praise equally, but Zaheer Khan was clearly more equal than the others.

Zaheer’s nine wickets set up the game for India. After his first-innings heroics, the most crucial blow was the wicket of Michael Vaughan on Monday, at a stage when England’s hopes were beginning to stir anew.

“Yes, when the game was on a balance, he took the match by the scruff of the neck,” Dravid said on Tuesday. “And RP Singh may not get the credit he deserves, but his critical wickets in both the innings made a big impact,” Dravid added.

But Dravid returned to Zaheer.

“Whenever we have wanted him to perform, whenever we wanted our bowlers to perform, Zaheer stood up,” Dravid said. “That’s what good fast bowlers do, that’s what matchwinners must do.”

The matchwinner himself, the flavour of Trent Bridge, said he loved bowling on this track. “This has been a superb spell for me, and I really enjoyed bowling it,” Zaheer said.

“First innings was important because the conditions suited fast bowling and we had a job to do,” Zaheer said. “In the second innings, it was important to continue the same performance. We knew it would be that easy to get the wickets, and we were prepared for hard work.”

Zaheer has indeed been working very hard — seven years after he burst upon the scene, immediately acclaimed as the man who bowled the deadliest bouncer wearing an Indian shirt, he lost his way somewhere along the way.

“It started when I was bowling wayward in Bangladesh 3-4 years back,” Zaheer looked back, in contemplation. “After that I worked on it in the first-class matches and got the control over my bowling.”

He got 78 wickets for Worcestershire and was recalled for the tour of South Africa. Sreesanth, ironically, was the premier bowler in South Africa — Zaheer’s display here (and Sreesanth’s) has reserved positions.

“Playing county cricket here helped me, in terms of getting used to the conditions and the swinging ball. Bowling so many overs and playing day in day out helped me to get a control over line and length,” Zaheer said.

But, wait a minute, didn’t he lose control for a few seconds on Sunday? What was all that bat-waving all about?

“We are here to play cricket and that is what we are looking forward to do in the whole series,” he said. But at the end, India and Zaheer were smiling — the case of the re-emerging jellybeans was closed with great satisfaction.