Since his debut in 2000, Zaheer Khan has come a long way– from the raw 22-year-old fast bowler to a role model and mentor for young pacers coming through India’s ranks.
Like any other cricketer, he has mentally grown as a fast bowler with a greater understanding of the game and often proves that bowling fast is not the only way to take wickets. Sometimes, you just have to get inside the batsman’s head to dismiss him.
In a chat with bcci.tv, Zaheer spoke about this transition and how he has changed his bowling over the years. “What helped me was cutting short my run-up, which I did some six-seven years ago. It helped me get better control on my bowling. Bowling a lot of overs in Worcestershire helped me understand my bowling much better and taught me how to bowl in different conditions. Since then I’ve been working on it and adding to the effectiveness,” he says.
Sacrificing pace for control is probably one of the tougher things a pacer has to do when he matures. But for Zaheer, it hasn’t been that hard: “It wasn’t tough for me. I understood that it’s about sorting the batsman out, understanding the conditions and the pitch and plotting the wicket based on the batsman’s weaknesses. All this comes with experience.”
But he does admit that he mixes around his deliveries rather than bowl monotonously. “Yes, at times, I’m really looking to bowl quick, while sometimes I just look to contain the batsman and let the wicket help me by pitching the ball in certain areas,” quips the left-armer.
Playing in the Test series against New Zealand currently, Zaheer also said that he constantly tries to set up a batsman to dismiss him. Of course, it takes patience but the Indian has plenty of that: “You just have to keep trying; that’s what Test matches are all about. As a bowler, you just keep asking the questions off the batsman and wait for him to make a mistake. I feel that’s what bowling is all about.”
Zaheer has digested the fact that bowling is more about the mind rather than just raw pace generated off the pitch. But the battles are not that easy. And eventually, it all comes down to taking wickets.
“This game is all about a constant battle between the batsman and the bowler. Between wickets and runs, are many mental battles. Whoever wins it, mostly, goes on to win the final war. In the end, it all boils down to picking up wickets, because that’s what wins you games.”
You can read the full report here.