Zaheer Khan: India's most reliable bowler's golden highlights were a pleasant change from his good boy looks.
Would you call it poetic justice that the shadow of 2003 World Cup won't chase you any longer?
I'm glad that I had that opportunity to change things. But by no way I regret the fact that 2003 did not go my way. It was a great learning experience. I was better prepared for 2011.
Of course, I wanted to change 2003, I have taken things in my stride. I was focused and well prepared for the big occasions, I am glad that I delivered.
They say 'Boys don't cry'. But that night was an aberration, even the toughest cracked up. You also cried?
When I met my parents they were so overjoyed and in tears and I couldn't control myself. It was a very emotional moment for the whole nation.
Many people have attributed the win to the people in their lives. Is there anyone special to whom you attribute this?
My parents. They have sacrificed a lot for me. They have always supported me for doing what I always wanted to. In fact, my rather unorthodox ways.
Fir instance, coming from Srirampur to Mumbai to play cricket and I giving up my engineering. There were plenty of decisions, which I took, that required their support. It's not easy being on the road since 1996, leaving Srirampur behind and playing cricket in Mumbai. In doing so their support was tremendous.
Every time you came on, there was an anticipation that a wicket would fall. Is Zaheer Khan well and truly in control of the outcome?
I gained momentum at the right time. Six months before the World Cup, I was a bit concerned that my body was not responding the way it should.
I was not being able to gain that momentum building up to the World Cup. But in time things fell into place. I wanted to play the full tour of South Africa, and got that.
I'm happy that when people look up to you and think that 'Zak is back', and he is gonna take a wicket, that's what you thrive on. Nothing is gonna give you a high than this.
Of all the 21 wickets you took, which one would you put right on the top?
I must mention two wickets here. One was definitely Andrew Strauss - that was a game changing moment for us. I bowled a perfect yorker, I was really thrilled at that.
The second one is Mike Hussey purely from bowling point of view. Ricky was playing really well and we had to break that partnership, especially after Hussey came into bat. I was really satisfied that I could do that.
By now you must have got a fair assessment of how your body is responding to three formats of the game. Has the thought crossed your mind by skipping one format, probably to prolong your career?
I enjoy when I am bowling fit. If anything at all has kept myself away from cricket are the injuries. I want to keep it that way for a while.
I haven't spared a thought about how I'm going to go about in the future. I'm peaking at the moment and would love to continue that way.
There was an unwritten theme in the team" "This time for Sachin". How much of that played on your mind?
Of all the people, the one who deserved this Cup was Sachin (Tendulkar), and we all knew that. We all wanted to win this Cup, but when we all look at him for what he has done for Indian cricket, we made sure that 'lets play for him and gift him the Cup'. It was a special feeling.
Gary Kirsten is gone now. Is there a specific situation that you have shared with him and will stay in your mind for ever?
Gary is the only coach to have understood me well. He has given me the freedom to express myself; he had understood the kind of space I would like to get into. When I wanted to do few things differently, he had given the freedom to do them.
When I joined the team after my injury, by then Gary had taken over already. I met him at Galle and told him, 'You just have faith in me, trust me and I won't disappoint you". That conversation was heart-to-heart, and ever since we have been on good terms and respected each other.
Gary had given names to your teammates... what was your's?
Simply Zak. I know he had given names to my team mates, which was nice to know. But he calls me Zak.
That recurring image of 15 men lifting the trophy has been frozen and immortalized. What does it mean for the next generations to come?
It's still not sunk in yet. Every time you see the image you feel proud that you brought smile to the people of the country. Felt nice going into the tournament as favourites, and also achieving something no one had done that before - winning the World Cup on your home soil. It was truly special in the final when "Vande Mataram" was being played. It gave me goose bumps and we just decided that we will not let go it. It's ours.
How are you bracing up to take on your Mumbai Indians teammates in the IPL?
Being from Mumbai I'd have loved to carry on with MI, but as a professional cricketer we have to move on.
For me the celebration is still on, will think about RCB and the IPL once I join them. For now, I am enjoying the moment.
(Sai Prasad MOhapatra works for ESPN's SPORTSCENTER)