Home > Features >

Zaheer Khan makes his India comeback with fluent show in 1st Test against South Africa

Zaheer Khan makes his India comeback with fluent show in 1st Test against South Africa
Zaheer Khan (above) has dismissed Graeme Smith 14 times in international cricket © Getty Images

By Bharath Ramaraj

For many years, Indian left arm seamer, Zaheer Khan has shouldered the mantle of spearheading the Indian pace-attack manfully. The skilful bowler with his ability to generate seam movement and with boomerang-bending swinging deliveries has engineered many Test victories for India, especially, while playing away from home. In recent times though, there have been major questions marks over his form and fitness. However, in the ongoing first Test match against South Africa played at Wanderers, Johannesburg, he has showcased that he hasn’t lost any of the magic that made him one of the finest seamers to have played for India.

In fact, during the first few overs of the second day’s play by bowling on and around the good length spot, he had his bunny Graeme Smith (Zaheer has dismissed Smith 14 times in international cricket) in all kinds of trouble. He moved the ball late in the air, both in and away from the left-handed batsman to cause some anxious moments for the South African captain. He also got a few to jag back into Smith and only a few thick inside edges and Wanderers’ bounce helped him to survive from getting out leg-before. The only strategy Smith seemed to have to counter Zaheer’s movement was to get outside the line of off-stump to the pacer. He finally reaped rewards for his unwavering perseverance when he trapped Smith plumb in front.

The advantage of being a left-arm pacer helped him to create a nice angle across the right-handed Alviro Peterson and brought the odd one back to keep him on tenterhooks. He twinned that by bowling from around the wicket to change the angle against right-handed batsmen in the opposition ranks. Even late in the day, Zaheer was trying every trick in a seamer’s hat to deliver the coup de grace. For instance, when Vernon Philander was batting, he was looking to pitch it on the cracks from around the wicket and exploit the noticeable gap between his bat and pad to shatter his timber. Despite taking just a single wicket on the second day, it was a welcome sign for the Indian think-tank that Zaheer looked close to his best.

When he plays for India, it isn’t just about Zaheer snaring wickets for the team. But he also takes up the mantle of mentoring other seamers well.  One could see that when he was giving a few tips to the inexperienced seamer — Mohammed Shami. Emboldened by his inspired showing, other seamers in the Indian team started to pick up wickets too. In addition to it, with Zaheer around, the Indian team seems to maintain the ball in good shape which in turn, is an important factor to consider, especially as the ball gets older.

Just a year ago, it all seemed different for Zaheer. He was thrown out of the Indian setup after a lackluster show in the Test match against England played at Kolkata. His pace was down and was bowling long hops for the English batsmen to feast on some insipid bowling. While the English seamers generated reverse swing on an abrasive surface, Zaheer just wasn’t able to match his counterparts. His fielding too left a lot to be desired.

Zaheer took that setback on his chin and has made a comeback into the team. Virtually, far away from the media glare, under the watchful eyes of Tim Exeter, a high performance physical trainer in a training camp in Brive La Gaillarde in France, he worked his way back into prime fitness by shedding blood, sweat tears and toil. It just gives an inkling about the kind of unbridled passion Zaheer has to play for India.

Since then, he has slowly but steadily comeback into the national reckoning. When the Indian selectors sat to pick a squad to tour South Africa for the Test series, they had no other choice, but to plump for Zaheer in the team.

Zaheer Khan’s figures which read as 22 overs, 72 runs and one wicket just don’t do justice to the way he bowled. But if we scratch the surface, underneath, one can notice that with subtle changes of wrists and fingers, Zaheer seemingly had the ball on a string and got it to swerve it in the air and move it off the pitch to test those fissures in a batsman’s defence. From India’s perspective, hopefully he will maintain that kind of form for a few years to come.

South Africa vs India — Live on Ten Cricket

Catch online live streaming of India vs South Africa Test series here

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 17, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 21, 2014 (08:50 IST)   at Melbourne

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 21, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Chittagong

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 22, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Dambulla

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 23, 2014 (08:50 IST)   at Sydney


Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 20, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled(Match rescheduled to 21/11/2014)

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 19, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 19, 2014  at Canberra

Australia won by 73 runs

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 16, 2014  at Ranchi

India won by 3 wkts


Australia vs South Africa, 3rd ODI at Canberra


SL vs Eng: Buttler practices wicketkeeping in nets

Live Cricket Score Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 1st ODI at Chittagong: Shakib Al Hasan makes hundred

Live Cricket Score Pakistan vs New Zealand, 2nd Test at Dubai, Day 5: Pakistan lose three wickets while chasing

Live Cricket Score Vijay Hazare Trophy 2014-15 Quarter-Final 4, Punjab vs Railways: Punjab closing in on victory

Live Cricket Score Vijay Hazare Trophy 2014-15 Quarter-Final 3 Mumbai vs Karnataka: Manish Pandey key to Karnataka’s chase

Live Cricket Score Australia vs South Africa 2014, 4th ODI Melbourne: Steven Smith’s half-century keeps hope alive for Australia

Australia Australia vs South Africa Australia vs South Africa 2014 BCCI India New Zealand New Zealand tour of UAE 2014 New Zealand vs Pakistan New Zealand vs Pakistan 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs New Zealand Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of Australia 2014 South Africa vs Australia South Africa vs Australia 2014

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014, 1st ODI at Chittagong: Shakib Al Hasan brings up sixth ODI ton; B’desh 214/4 after 42.1 overs

Australia vs South Africa 4th ODI: Steve Smith, Matthew Wade build partnership; score 170/5

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014, 1st ODI at Chittagong: Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim bring up 100-run stand for fifth wicket; B’desh 177/4 after 37 overs

WICB task force begins work on India tour pull-out

Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014: Sarfaraz Ahmed ready to bat at any position

PCB’s biggest challenge is to bring back international cricket to Pakistan: Subhan Ahmad

Tim Southee’s 50 Test sixes and related records

India vs Australia 2014: India may have heavy dose of pace in store in 1st Test

Ross Taylor’s crucial knock will boost New Zealand’s sub-par subcontinent record

Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014, 2nd Test at Dubai: Tim Southee finally comes good in UAE

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

681 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Virat Kohli vs Australian cricketers

हिंदुस्तान जिंक राजस्थान ने 152 जैविक शौचालय बनाने का किया फैसला

How juicy tomatoes can enhance your beauty

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here