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Zaheer Khan can still contribute to Indian cricket: Wasim Akram

Zaheer Khan © Getty Images
Zaheer Khan made a comeback in South Afica Test series © Getty Images

New Delhi: Feb 20, 2014

Legendary Pakistan seamer Wasim Akram and former India bowling coach Eric Simons feels left-arm pacer Zaheer Khan still has a lot to offer to Indian cricket before he finally hangs up his boots.

After spending close to a year away from the side, Zaheer made a comeback in South Afica Test series and in the four Tests since returning, he has scalped 16 wickets including a five-wicket haul against New Zealand in the second Test.

His performance has failed to impress the likes of former captain Rahul Dravid, who felt Zaheer should ask himself some tough questions.

However, Akram feels Zaheer can guide and pass on his bowling skills to the young Indian fast bowlers in the time left before his retirement.

“It is very rare that you make a comeback having played 90 Tests. So it is just not your bowling but also your reputation at stake,” Akram told ESPNcricinfo.

“But in the time left before he finally retires, Zaheer has the opportunity to contribute a lot still. Like Imran [Khan] did with myself and Waqar [Younis], Zak can stand at mid-on and mid-off and teach other bowlers skills like reverse swing, have a word with the young fast bowlers when things are not going well.

“Talking, explaining fast bowling is an art. Just because one is a fast bowler does not always mean he can teach easily to others. So the more Zaheer talks to the others, he will learn and teach more. I used to just ask Imran ‘kya karoon, kya karoon (what should I do)’ for the first three years. And that is how I learned,” he added.

With 311 wickets in 92 Tests, Zaheer is the second most successful India seamer after Kapil Dev but his career has been plagued by injuries and Dravid said he would hate to see Zaheer end his career bowling 120-125 kph.

However, former India bowling coach Eric Simons believes speed has never really been Zaheer’s strength.

“Zaheer is not a very physical bowler. Zaheer is lot more tactical in his approach, lot more skillful in the sense he has relied more on the swinging the ball and using the variations to be successful. And he will just end up relying more and more on those skills as time goes along,” Simon said.

“If he [Zaheer] is used more to complement the other chaps, who are bowling quicker then he becomes more effective. That will naturally become his role in future. Even Richard Hadlee became very effective in such a role.”

Simons believes the best way to use Zaheer was by playing him not as a “strike” bowler but as a “skillful” bowler.

“The one thing about Zak is he is a person thrives on lots of bowling. He needs to be used in a manner that allows him to be the skillful bowler that he is; maybe not as the strike bowler,” he said.

“May be he bowls a few overs upfront with the new ball while it is swinging because he is one of the best exponents of that art and then later on in the game where he can bring to the fore the different variations he has.”

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