Australia tour will be huge learning experience for youngsters: Zaheer

Zaheer Khan says he will try his best to help and guide young Indian bowlers Getty Images

By CricketCountry Staff

Melbourne: Dec 25, 2011

India pacer Zaheer Khan says that the Australia tour will be huge learning experience for the new-look Indian bowling attack, but his side will miss the experience of ace off spinner Harbhajan Singh.

Zaheer said ahead of the first Test which begins on Boxing Day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, “As far as batting is concerned, to have guys who have toured Australia before more than once will definitely give us that edge. Yes, the bowling wears a new look and we ll have to chalk out our plans keeping in mind the conditions. I m sure we can do it successfully.”

“Ishant [Sharma] has played there before; I too am familiar with the country. We will miss the experience of someone like Harbhajan [Singh] who has played a lot of cricket in Australia. The youngsters will have to adapt to the conditions as soon as possible,” Zaheer said.

The left-arm pace spearhead is happy to see the young pacers like Umesh Yadav bowling up to 140 kmph and more.

“What stands out with some of these young pacers is that they regularly clock speeds in the high 140s. It is always good for a young fast bowler to have that raw pace; other things can be achieved through a bit of fine-tuning. As I spend time with them and understand their bowling styles better, I will try my best to give them the guidance they need,” he said.

“The tour to Australia will be a huge learning experience for these youngsters. They ll enjoy bowling on the bouncy tracks there. All I d say to them is to keep things simple and do what they ve been doing so far,” Zaheer added.

The Indian pacer spearhead has expressed his confidence in Ishant Sharma, who is still doubtful for the opening Test.

“We all know Ishant has the potential to be one of the best fast bowlers for India. At this level, at times you can have a loss of form and it s important to go back to the basics,” he said.

“With the kind of schedule that we have, it s important to understand your body and your bowling style and follow a routine that helps you maintain your rhythm and fitness right through the season. I think Ishant has learnt that now. He now knows what works best for him,” Zaheer was quoted as saying by BCCI’s portal.

Zaheer said he had no idea about Ishant copying his action, which the latter had revealed some months ago. “I had no idea about that. I only came to know when I read it in the newspapers. He never mentioned it to me. Had he spoken to me about it, I d have straightaway told him, ‘Forget about that because our bowling styles are completely different,” he said.

33-year-old Zaheer also wished that he doesn t break down mid-way during the tour.

“I hope I can be third time lucky. The last two times I couldn t finish the tours due to injuries. This time I m feeling confident going there because I ve had the time to prepare. I m feeling good about my bowling as well; the rhythm is picking up. I look forward to making a more significant contribution this time,” he said.

Talking about the on-field rivalry between the two sides, Zaheer recalled, “Over the years we ve developed a very healthy rivalry against Australia. No matter what the team is, touring Australia is always a challenge. It will take a lot of effort from us to play in those conditions and we ll have to bring out our A game if we want to win. It will be crucial for us to start well because that will set the momentum for the entire series.”

He said the hard-fought series in 2001 between the two sides in India proved to be decisive in his career.

“Being exposed to a high-pressure series like that at such an early phase in my career was a huge learning [experience]. I ve never been part of a more intense series. Especially the Kolkata Test win, where we fought back after being asked to follow on, had a huge impact on me. It boosted my mental strength and prepared me to deal with pressure in a better way,” Zaheer expressed.

Zaheer said Team India has developed many folds since then.

“The development has been gradual. It started under Sourav [Ganguly] when we started touring better. Under Anil [Kumble] and now under MS Dhoni we just kept raising the bar. It s all about creating good habits and sticking to them.”

“In the last three and a half years, under Gary [Kirsten], we ve put a system in place where roles are clearly defined and everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. We all have the confidence that in difficult times someone will stand up and see the team through. These things are developed over the years,” he said.

The left-arm pacer concluded that aggression is necessary on the field.