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Friday, October 16, 2015

Zaheer Khan retires from Cricket

It all started way back in Test no. 1512 at Bangabandhu National Stadium Dhaka in Nov 2000 – the unlikely hero was Sunil Joshi… a left arm spinner who took 5 for  142 in the 1st innings and took 3 for 27 enabling an Indian win…….. in between,  he top scored with 92  ! and that was the Test  Shiv Sundar Das, Syed Sabha Karim and Zaheer Khan debuted.

Years later, India toured England in 2007.  That tour  included 3 Tests and 7 ODIs. During the Test series, the Pataudi Trophy,  India won by a handsome margin at Nottingham.  Zaheer was the Man of the Match for his 9 wicket haul. The win was overshadowed by the British Tabloid which underplayed the jelly bean prank and  sledging but over played Sreesanth's shoulder-barging Vaughan. Sreesanth was duly fined 50% of his match fee. England down the barrel was not able to digest the nosedive and tried to steer the sour contest to sweetness by placing tiny nuggests of confectionery at the shortleg infuriating Zaheer. Only the subsequent bat waving made news. Just why the bean was deployed, and who was responsible, did not become the subject of debate as also the more serious continuous sledging by Matt Prior & team. Poor Khan felt the beans to be an insult - the sugar-laden confectionery perhaps was a pointed reference to his weight, a much-commented-upon subject among observers of the game!

Jelly beans are a type of confectionery that comes in many different (primarily fruit) flavors. They are small (the size of a red kidney bean or smaller) and usually have a hard candy shell and gummy interior. The confection is primarily made of sugar. Jelly beans are a favourite among cricketers not only as an energy boost - they also help turn saliva sugary, which makes it easier to polish the ball.

Zaheer has announced his retirement from International Cricket.  In Test, among fast bowlers, only Kapil has taken more.  In fact there are only 6 who have taken 100 Test wickets – Kapil Dev (434); Zaheer (311) Javagal Srinath (236); Ishant Sharma (200); Karsan DEvraj Ghavri (109 – a few of them with his spin !) & Irfan Pathan (100).  Manoj Prabhakar and Venkatesh Prasad went away tantalising close with 96 scalps.

In one dayers there are 10 seamers with 100 or more and that includes Sourav Ganguly (100).  The top five are : Javagal Srinath (315); Ajit Agarkar (288); Zaheer Khan (269); Kapil Dev (253) and Venkatesh Prasad (196)

With 610 international wickets, Zaheer finishes as one of India's most successful bowlers.  Zaheer, though, played few international matches in recent years after being dogged by injuries. An injury he sustained to his bowling arm in May 2014 had put him out of action for a long time, although he managed to play seven games in this year's IPL. While his final Test was against New Zealand in Wellington early last year, his last ODI was more than three years ago, against Sri Lanka in Pallekele. He ends his international career with 92 Tests, 200 ODIs and 17 T20Is to his name.
He threatened many an opposition with his reverse swinging wicket taking abilities.  Dhoni called him  the "most clever fast bowler" he knows.  It is praise that goes beyond stats, which sadly do not do Zaheer Khan justice. It goes beyond calling him the Tendulkar of Indian bowling, which Dhoni did earlier. This is despite all the frustration Zaheer's fitness battles would have caused Dhoni. In England, in 2011, Zaheer walked off on the first day to herald India's depressing sequence of eight straight away defeats.

Like the great Kapil Dev, he too had to fight curators making slow and low tracks, when sides stopped fearing a travel to India. Sad that Indian bowlers could not operate on hard green tops where ball would carry with a thud to keeper’s gloves.  He had some bunnies and Greame Smith would be there. 

One may not remember  Tim McIntosh, a  left-handed opening batsman, who played 17 Tests (33 innings)- 5 Tests (9 Innings against) India – was dismissed 6 times by Zaheer including a pair in a Test.

He remained a gentle operator – never making ugly celebrations.  He bowled well with the old ball and got it to reverse swing.  He could bowl with all types of balls be it -  SG, Duke 0r  Kookaburra. His injury problems often prevented him from playing the first Test of a Series.

So after 92 Tests and 200 One dayers, Zak has called it a day.  He made 1231 Test runs and 792 in ODIs.   In Dec 2004, at Dhaka, Zaheer came in at 393/9 – Sachin was 191 and when he got out it was 526 -  with Sachin 248 and Zaheer 75 with 10 fours and 2 sixers, the highest by a No. 11 at that time. [now it is 98 by Ashton Agar]

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
16th Oct 2015.

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