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)

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014 (14:00 IST)   at Centurion

India tour of Australia, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Woolloongabba, Brisbane

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 19, 2014 (16:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (14:00 IST)   at Port Elizabeth

Sri Lanka tour of New Zealand, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (03:30 IST)   at Christchurch


Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 17, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

New Zealand won by 7 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Dec 16, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 87 runs

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 14, 2014  at Sharjah

Pakistan won by 147 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Dec 13, 2014  at Pallekele

Sri Lanka won by 90 runs

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 12, 2014  at Sharjah

New Zealand won by 4 wkts


India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane


Josh Hazlewood looks back at his 5-wicket haul

Pakistan vs New Zealand, 5th ODI at Abu Dhabi: Key clashes

Live Cricket Score, South Africa vs West Indies,1st Test, Day 3 at Centurion

India vs Australia 2014-15, 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 3: India go past 50-run mark

Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014, 5th ODI at Abu Dhabi Preview: Teams prepare for high-octane finale

Anil Kumble Australia India Ishant Sharma Moments in history Ravichandran Ashwin Ricky Ponting South Africa

Live Scorecard: South Africa vs West Indies, 1st Test, Day 3, at Centurion

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 3: Murali Vijay bowled by Mitchell Starc

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 3: Murali Vijay goes past 1,000 runs against Australia

India vs Australia 2014-15, 2nd Test, Brisbane: Rohit Sharma disappointed says Anil Kumble

Navjot Singh Sidhu’s convoy attacked in Jammu and Kashmir

Pakistan vs New Zealand, 5th ODI at Abu Dhabi: Key clashes

Stiaan van Zyl’s century on debut earns him a dream start to Test cricket

Varun Aaron: Memories of a teammate

World Cup 1987: Viv Richards decimates Sri Lanka at Karachi

India vs Australia 2nd Test at Brisbane: Steven Smith holds key for Australia

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

653 Posts | 10 Fans

India vs Australia: Murali Vijay's 144, Video highlights

प्रसिद्ध कथक नृत्यांगना सितारा देवी नहीं रही

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Bigg Boss 8: Ali Quli Mirza, Renee Dhyani, Upen Patel, Praneet Bhatt, Sonali Raut – who should be evicted this week?

Revealed: The reason why Kishore Kumar’s biopic starring Ranbir Kapoor won’t feature Katrina Kaif!

अभिनेत्री प्रियंका चोपड़ा ने स्वच्छ भारत अभियान में हिस्सा लिया

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here