Zaheer Khan's selection for South Africa tour could prove to be another ace played by Sandeep Patil-led selection panel

Zaheer Khan’s presence in the team will be a motivating factor for younger bowlers in the team © Getty Images

In a surprising move, Zaheer Khan has been included in the Indian Test squad for the upcoming series against South Africa. Aayush Puthran feels that it is critical to not only assess his performance, but the performances of the other seamers also needs to be looked at to get a better picture of Zaheer’s contribution to the team.
 
With experience comes a lot of intangible worth to a player. While some keep it stored in the safe houses of their inner-self, others like Zaheer Khan have put it to good use in the form of ‘mentoring’.
 
His selection to the South African tour comes as a surprise for multiple reasons.
 

  • Firstly, the Sandeep Patil-led selection panel has shown enough evidence of the fact that they are not relying on past performances. So, all the experience in the South African conditions and the performances on the previous tours to the country go out of the window.

 

  • Secondly, age is not really on Zaheer’s side. At 35, for a fast bowler, there is little a team would want to invest in. Given the amount of time he has spent out of international cricket also doesn’t help his case.

 

  • And thirdly, there is a good bunch of young fast-bowlers, who have shown positive signs, to choose from.

 
Thus in his case, there has to be a more crucial role to play than simply having a short-term agenda. Yes, it would be more than just to annihilate the best Test side in world cricket in their own den. It would be more to harness the young crop of fast-bowlers and help them to reach a level from where they can stand as world beaters. His role would also be to teach them the tricks of tackling the pressures of international cricket. And most importantly be a pillar of strength if things don’t work out against one of the best batting line-ups in the world.
 
Unlike some other former pacers in the country, Zaheer has been credited by his fellow fast bowlers for being a major strength of support. Skipper MS Dhoni has gone on to compare him as the Sachin Tendulkar of Indian bowling. Much like the batting legend, Zaheer brings in a lot more to the team than simply his bowling.
 
Ishant Sharma is one of the finest cases of how Zaheer’s presence in the team helped his performance. And the praise for the left-armer has come from none other than Ishant himself. The mantle of the senior fast-bowler has to be passed onto much safer hands. As of now, nobody seems fit enough to hold on to that position.
 
There has been much thought put into his selection by the committee, which till now seems to have got all their bold decisions turned into gold. And thus, it will be critical to not just assess the performance of Zaheer on the tour of South Africa, but also the other pacers, as they are much likely to be impacted by his presence for the better.
 
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)