Indias premier strike bowler in the last few years,Zaheer Khan,has played very intermittently in the last 12 months,having picked up injuries as regularly as perhaps the wicket of a left-handed batsman while bowling at full-tilt.
The ongoing edition of the IPL is,in fact,his first limited-overs tournament since the World Cup where has played regularly. Alarmingly,though,for his team Royal Challengers Bangalore,he hasnt had the kind of impact teams have come to expect from a fit Zaheer Khan.
In the eight matches that he has played so far,the left-arm pacer has taken eight wickets at an economy rate of 7.73. While the numbers dont look too bad when compared to his overall strike-rate and economy rate in T20,its his body language he looks jaded that perhaps has deprived RCB of a psychological edge in the bowling department.
It reflects in their performance too,as they have conceded 180+ runs thrice in the tournament (the most number of time,alongside the Rajasthan Royals).
At 34,age is not on Zaheers side. And for someone as injury prone as him,doubts on his future are always another breakdown away. So are the rigours of T20 taking a toll on his sharpness?
Says Mumbai Ranji team coach Sulakshan Kulkarni: When Zaheer played his first match after the ankle surgery (against Orissa in Cuttack last November),he was not at his best. He played two matches for Mumbai before going to Australia and bowled about 50 overs. He was trying to get into rhythm. Australia was a very tough tour. Its all about confidence. If he would have played a series against a weaker side,things would have been much different, Kulkarni told The Indian Express.
In IPL,I wont say Zaheer is bowling badly. He bowled an exceptional over to Ajinkya Rahane in the match against the Rajasthan Royals where Rahane got a hundred. I would say he is bowling well within himself. At some stage he,however,will have to take a call. You can pick and choose when you are playing for India. But the IPL world is different. Its more unforgiving. Not many Indian fast bowlers have played at the age of 34. Zaheer will have to be selective about playing in the IPL matches if he wants to prolong his Test career.
RCB captain Daniel Vettori,however,brushed aside questions on Zaheers form. I am very happy with the way he has bowled. The injury might be at the back of his mind but he is getting stronger everyday and is bowling quicker. He is an extremely smart bowler with his subtle variations in the death overs. Also,he is a very good leader of the bowling pack,especially the Indian bowlers. Vinay Kumar,Harshal Patel all look at him for inspiration, said Vettori,on the eve of the game against the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens.
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