The emotional tug of Yuvraj Singhs return,quite understandably,has eclipsed every other story in the build-up to the Visakhapatnam T20. But one far less compelling,no doubt deserves some attention. Its about another player who made his international debut in the same match as Yuvraj.
Since those heady days in Nairobi,both Yuvraj and Zaheer Khan have grown into outstanding 50-overs cricketers. But their career trajectories in the shortest and longest forms of the game couldnt be more dissimilar.
Zaheer has few equals at making a red cricket ball whether its SG,Kookaburra or Duke,whether its been lovingly unwrapped a moment ago or looks like its had a rendezvous with a cheese grater bend to his will. Yuvraj,meanwhile,has never been too sure of how to respond when a red cricket ball decides to have some fun with him.
The reverse is true of their forays into T20. Yuvraj is one of the worlds most dangerous batsmen in the format,of course coming into his own in the inaugural World T20,which India won.
Zaheer wasnt part of that triumph,but played in the next two editions. In 2009,he finished with an economy rate of 8.38 the highest among the Indian bowlers. A year later in the Caribbean,he conceded 45 in four overs against Australia and 36 in four against the West Indies. The only other match he played was against Afghanistan.
Zaheer hasnt featured in international T20 since then. No ones really complained. For one,its let him preserve himself for more important assignments. And he wasnt really forcing the selectors to pick him. Zaheers record in the last two IPL seasons has been middling 31 wickets in 31 matches at an average of 29.29,and an economy rate of 7.63.
And yet,Zaks back,for the two T20s against New Zealand and the World T20. Maybe the selectors wanted someone experienced with big-match temperament. Zaheer ticks all those boxes,but its hard to say if they count for much in T20.
It isnt as if the selectors had no other options. Praveen Kumar provided a vaguely similar skill set,while Umesh Yadav presented them another expensive wicket-taking option Zaheers T20 record surely puts him in that category. Instead,they went with the 33-year-old injury-prone fast man who is too valuable to lose at a time when the Test attack desperately needs him. Even if that makes some sense,given the World T20s importance,why exactly is he playing the New Zealand T20s?
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