Zaheer must lead from the front

Updated on May 22, 2007 08:33 AM IST
After all, he has played 39 more tests than rest of the pace attack, writes Atul Sondhi.
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Hindustan Times | ByAtul Sondhi, New Delhi

A listless Zaheer in this series! On the heels of a listless Zaheer in the World Cup!

Where is the penetration one has come to expect of India’s most valuable bowler?

Where is the grit Zaheer showed in his comeback quest in South Africa when his three tests gave him 13 wickets at a respectable average of 30? Especially his five wicket haul in the first test, which in tandem with Sreesanth’s youthful exuberance, helped India win their first test on South African soil.

Of the regular bowlers active in the match, Zaheer is India’s most experienced too. He has played 45 tests compared to six by VRV, RP Singh and Ramesh Powar combined! Of course, Powar is playing his first test as well.

Before this match, the rest of the attack had 14 test wickets to their credit compared to 134 of Zaheer Khan. Definitely, India were banking on Zaheer to give much needed impetus to the Indian bowling in the absence of Kumble. Instead, it was given by RP in the beginning, and VRV and Powar in the rest of the innings. Even Tendulkar, with his guile that is so characteristic of his bowling, chipped in with a wicket to end Mortaza and Hossain’s partnership of 77.

Zaheer show was at best a no-show. From 149 for eight till the time the critical ninth wicket partnership ended, Dravid gave Zaheer just three overs off the 18 used. And he ended up giving away 24 runs, his most expensive spell of the match.

To be fair to Zaheer, when he was given the ball with Bangladesh at 185 for eight, still needing three runs to avoid the follow on, Powar did drop a difficult catch. But that can not be an excuse for waywardness in that critical period.

Zaheer was the most listless of the Indian bowlers on show on the fourth day. That shows why Dravid resisted from using him after his 12th over when Bangladesh were 81 for four, and got him back only when they needed three runs to avoid the follow on.

Zaheer not only took just one wicket, but his economy of four plus was worse than any other Indian bowlers.

Weather permitting, and if India are bold enough to allow their bowlers a decent crack, it will be time for him to be counted. Of late, he is performing in patches, which is not good enough for a premier bowler of his caliber.

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