Zaheer Khan last played an ODI in August 2012. A tendon injury saw him abort his IPL campaign in May last year. That was the last time he had appeared in a game of cricket of any relevance. Despite having not played in 11 months, two IPL teams — Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils — went all-out to rope in the left-arm seamer at the IPL auction last month.
The 36-year-old was picked up by the Delhi Daredevils for Rs 4 crore. There were some eyebrows raised when the Delhi franchise decided to splurge on an out-of-favour India seamer.
However, Daredevils think-tank believes Zaheer’s induction will help bring a turnaround in their fortunes. The IPL team had finished at the bottom of the table last year.
Zaheer is just happy to be part of the mix after coming off from a long injury lay-off. “I am taking one step at a time, and IPL is the first step I’m taking and then I will see how things go.”
However, if Zaheer is to trigger a turnaround for the Daredevils, he will have to quickly hit his stride.
Delhi Daredevils manager TA Sekhar expects the experienced pacer to be an asset.
“Both Gary (Kirsten) and I are delighted to have Zaheer in our side. He is the leader of our pack and his experience will help our younger bowlers like Mohammed Shami and Jaydev Unadkat,” Sekhar said.
Apart from mentoring the young quicks, Zaheer will also have the burden of bowling at the death. Plus, he will be called upon to give his strategic inputs to captain JP Duminy.
“He is a shrewd cricketer. I know him from his Under-19 days, and with time he has honed his skills to become the finest fast bowler in the country. He is a great tactician and I have seen him being of great help (tactically) to Dhoni. I think Zaheer can play a similar role for us this season,” Sekhar said.
Long road ahead
Last season, Daredevils had lost their premier fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile to an injury. With no other experienced fast bowler in their ranks, their bowling looked flat and in the process leaked runs in the death overs, which hurt their campaign. This season they have placed big bets on Zaheer Khan.
Having the technical nous is one thing, but does the 36-year-old have the finess to last an entire IPL season?
“It is true that he is coming from a long injury lay-off. But Zaheer is a seasoned campaigner. He knows his body, and observing him all these years, I don’t think he needs match practice to get into the groove. I am confident Zaheer will deliver for us,” Sekhar added.
On making the Daredevils debut, Zaheer said: “Daredevils has had a tough season last year. So there is a lot of responsibility on us to turn things around. Yes, it is a challenge and I am really looking forward to it. We have a lot of new faces in the side and hopefully, we can turn it around this season,” he said.