Inswing, out swing, reverse swing, yorkers and bouncers Zaheer Khan could bowl them all. When Zaheer Khan limped off the field at Lords on the first day of the first Test in 2011, Sanjay Manjrekar called it as ‘India’s worst nightmare come true.’ Although India had a strong batting line up the series resulted in a 4-0 whitewash. The series was one of the best examples of how valuable Zaheer was to the Indian cricket team.
Khan made his debut in 2000 at the ICC Knock Out Trophy in Kenya and immediately made his mark. It was on the back of some of his excellent bowling spells like the 4 wicket haul against New Zealand which led India to the finals of the 2003 ICC World Cup. The highest point in Khan’s career, was the 2011 World Cup where he was the joint-highest wicket-taker and was instrumental in India’s victory. He burnt away all his demons of the 2003 World cup.
For a nation which saw a line of brilliant batsmen, Zaheer Khan was one bowler who thoroughly dominated the sport. A master of bowling fast inch perfect yorkers along with impeccable control over line length, made Khan a class apart. With his 610 international wickets,282 in ODI and 311 in Test he brought a much needed confidence into the Indian bowling attack. His control over the game in crucial situations often snatched victories for India.
Khan’s final figures in test of 311 wickets at 32.94 and a strike rate of 60.4,do not do justice to his form from 2007-2011. During this brilliant four and a half year period he captured 144 wickets at 27.90, along with 7 five wicket hauls. Although his average is slightly inferior to Kapil Dev and Jawagal Sreenath. Yet, during his zenith. He was among the top bracket of Test bowlers, closer to the pinnacle than either Kapil or Sreenath had managed during their respective peaks.
Specs of injuries throughout his career have been a major obstacle but Zaheer Khan has always faced them with dignity and determination always coming back with a bang. We all wish we could see him bowl one more time in that Indian jersey but unfortunately Khan has already played his last ODI match in 2012 in Sri Lanka and his last Test was in early 2014 in New Zealand. But we will see him bowl one last time in the ninth season of the Indian Premier League. Zaheer Khan was unquestionably the best Indian pacer India saw in the last two decades and it will indeed be difficult to fill the void he left.