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Zaheer,a wrong ’un for T20s

But one — far less compelling,no doubt — deserves some attention.

Written by Karthikkrishnaswamy | Published: September 8, 2012 1:18:57 am

The emotional tug of Yuvraj Singh’s 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. It’s 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 couldn’t be more dissimilar.

Zaheer has few equals at making a red cricket ball — whether it’s SG,Kookaburra or Duke,whether it’s been lovingly unwrapped a moment ago or looks like it’s 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 world’s most dangerous batsmen in the format,of course coming into his own in the inaugural World T20,which India won.

Zaheer wasn’t 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 hasn’t featured in international T20 since then. No one’s really complained. For one,it’s let him preserve himself for more important assignments. And he wasn’t really forcing the selectors to pick him. Zaheer’s 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,Zak’s 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 it’s hard to say if they count for much in T20.

It isn’t 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 — Zaheer’s 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 T20’s importance,why exactly is he playing the New Zealand T20s?

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