India were being crushed by the Kiwis. Low scoring games in the fast and bouncy tracks of New Zealand and even though our bowlers were bowling well, our batsmen were not able to contribute much. The Test series was lost. The one-off t20 match, perhaps India’s first, was also lost even though Sachin scored a great knock and even won the MoM. We even lost the first two ODIs.
I remember the DD News anchor reading the headline, “Bharat ne jeet ka swaad chakha” (India finally tasted victory?). The person responsible for that ODI-win was the tailender, Zaheer Khan.
[Image courtesy: Sportskeeda.com]
It wasn’t the only time that he made it happen. The famous Natwest ODI chase, where Kaif and Yuvi got India home, and is more famously known for Dada’s antics in the Lord’s pavilion. The winning shot was also hit by Zaheer Khan.
Of course, he isn’t known for his batting, but these were some memories that are entrenched in many Cricket lovers’ mind.
It was around the same time when a new team India was formed. The Men in Blue team led by Saurav Ganguly came into being. The rise of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Mohammed Kaif and Zaheer Khan had all happened at the same time. Indian Cricket which was in deep trouble post the Match fixing scandal, was finally being rebuilt. Zaheer Khan was one among the many heroes which made it possible.
As Dhoni rightly pointed out, Zaheer is the Sachin of Bowling. No other words are fit to describe his contribution and stature.
I still recall how while playing as kids, would try to copy his bowling style. In my head I was trying to take a run-up like him and leap right at the crease and bowl. Of course, I did looked funny and nothing like him and probably the time my bowl reached the wicket, Zak would have already bowled two deliveries. Not just me, many who have played around the time when Zaheer was at his peak, have tried to do the same.
[Image courtesy: Yahoo Images]
He had that effect on a lot of cricketers. He had a certain charm and style to his action and you ended up feeling that you ought to be like him. At least try to.
Years later, when he was out of the Indian team, he went back to basics. Got his fitness back, played in the English county and finally got back to the team.
In his retirement note, clearly mentioning that winning the World Cup was the most cherished moment of his cricketing career.
[Image courtesy: Daily Mail]
He was a hero of Indian bowling, a mentor for many fast bowlers and I do wish that sooner than later, he gets associated with the Indian team in mentoring our fast bowlers.
Thank you Zaheer khan, for being an inspiration for many. No matter how much I write, it won’t be enough to thank you.
Have a great life ahead.