To get to the highest level, talent is a given. It is what follows the talent that takes one to the next level, the one that a performer belongs to. Zaheer Khan is one such bowler. That he was someone with a lot of skill was always obvious. But it was only when he learnt how good he was and where his strengths lay, did he become the Zaheer of today, one who on Saturday morning ran through the Kiwis at Wellington. He’s probably set up a rare series win in New Zealand.
The county stint with Worcestershire was his turning point. Having to bowl roughly 25 overs day in and day out, is the best way to learn about one’s bowling. You realise your strengths, your limitations and the fitness level it takes to perform all the time. In the county circuit, both teammates as well as the opposition look up to an international player. And while that brings added pressure, for some, the responsibility brings out the man in the boy.
For some people this understanding of oneself comes early, for some a little later. Once that comes, like it did to Zaheer at Worcester, you transfer ability to performance. You learn how to pace yourself to ensure that the 23rd or 24th over of the day or innings too, you are running in like you did in the first spell. All of a sudden, you know what skills to work on and how fit you need to be. Actually, Zaheer has recently moved on to an even higher platform. With active encouragement from Venkatesh Prasad, whose role in his rise cannot be overlooked, Zaheer has taken on the role of a mentor to the younger bowlers, guiding and empowering them, all so vital to the continued development of a team. He works more in partnership with the youngsters, rather than in a leadership role, making them very comfortable.
As for the rest of the team, it is so heartwarming to see the lower order contribute. It is something has been talked about for a while, wherein the bowlers did their bit with the bat and the batsmen chipped in with the odd wicket here and there, breaking a stubborn partnership or two. In team discussions, it was constantly stated that in order to win consistently, everyone needs to contribute and so the team has been working on getting it right. The skill has always been there - Harbhajan showed us that didn’t he - it is only that the required application too has been factored in.
Off as I am to Johannesburg for the IPL, I hope to catch the end of the Test there and should our team pull it off, you can bet I’ll be celebrating along with them. This team deserves the success. They have worked hard for it.