Posts Tagged ‘Zaheer Khan’

Cricket is not a one-way traffic zone and the Indian team – which probably thinks batting alone can win them the World Cup – was taught a lesson on Sunday by England who exposed the co-hosts’ Achilles heel called fielding and the single-man bowling army called Zaheer Khan.



Was the wicket a shirt-front, did the South Africans bat well or was it that the Indians bowled badly? Whatever be the reason, nothing can be taken away from the Kallis-Amla combine and none but Zaheer Khan can hold his head high among the Indian bowlers.

Winning the toss and batting was no doubt vital but that’s not where the game ends; in fact, that’s where it begins. If a team doesn’t get what it wanted, that’s more reason to double up the effort since the opposition is already at advantage, courtesy the toss and injuries to Laxman and Rohit Sharma, which brought Badrinath into the eleven along with Wridhiman Saha who made a lucky debut.

Things didn’t begin badly for India, rather it was all hunky-dory with South Africa reeling at 6/2. Prince was at the receiving end of a snorter from Zaheer that took the shoulder of his bat and ballooned up in the air for Dhoni. The Zaheer-Smith rivalry continued from where it left in South Africa but it was the Indian left-armer who once again got the better of South African skipper.

Kallis and Amla bat well together but nobody had a clue that the wellness would stitch together a 285-run unbroken partnership and guide the African safari to safer territory. They made Dhoni’s moves look ordinary but the credit, or the lack of it, for that goes to the Indian spinners who hardly troubled historically spin-scary Proteas. On the contrary, Kallis and Amla looked more at ease against spin than pace.

Harbhajan has now been struggling for long and it was nothing different today at Nagpur. The tide may turn in his favor tomorrow but that doesn’t mean his lifeless performance on day 1 should be overlooked. He and Zaheer share the responsibility of taking most of the 20 wickets in a Test. If even one of them doesn’t fire, efforts of the other are wasted. That’s what we saw today. Ideally, early wickets from seamers should help spinners settle in and tighten the grip but Harbhajan and Mishra couldn’t do that. To make the matters worse, Harbhajan was the costliest of Indian bowlers giving away 3.85 runs per over.

Let us admit that Indians looked flat or were flattened by an imposing partnership between Kallis (159 not out) and Amla (115 not out) that took their team to 291/2 at stumps. Things already look ominous for India and if the pacers fail to make use of the newish ball tomorrow morning, there is no hope in sight with uninspiring spinners.

The BCCI-appointed fielding tutor of the Indian team may be impressed by the drills of U-19 boys but the men failed to get it right once again and gifted a close match to Sri Lanka. More than the catching, the ground fielding was found wanted this time.

At least three slapdash incidents remain etched in the mind, without which the match would surely have made it to the final ball: Kohli-Harbhajan combine’s overthrow resulting in 4 runs, Sehwag’s straightforward miss costing a couple and Zaheer’s schoolboy effort in the last over letting three runs slip. Leaving out other minor lapses, these three goof-ups cost India 9 runs and eventually the match.

It started with Dhoni electing to bat, which didn’t initially prove right. While Sehwag displayed the human nature to err at times, Gambhir’s insane attempts at snatching singles finally brought the dreaded run-out. Kohli got the promotion he needed to justify his hype. He had the master Sachin Tendulkar for support who undoubtedly had a role in the crisp knock Kohli played. He hogged majority of the strike and was the aggressor in the 62-run stand. He reached his fifty at just over a run a ball, but perished when looking good at 54 to debutant offie Suraj Randiv.

Sachin stayed to add another 51 runs with Dhoni before he got stumped in an attempt to deposit Mendis. Dhoni would have followed soon, but for the first of four lives he got, when Sangakkara missed to collect an edge. Raina was watchful at the start but kept his end productively plugged. The Indian skipper got the next let-offs in the 37th over, again from Sangakkara who first dropped a catch and then missed a stumping, leaving Mendis in disbelief. Dhoni reached his 50 off the very next ball and the score started to balloon.

MSD decided to up the ante even before taking the power-play in the 41st over, but it was Raina who made full use of the field restrictions. He almost caught up with Dhoni by the end of five-over bracket which added 50 runs to the total. Raina’s 53-ball knock of 68 was ended by Mathews that brought Jadeja in. Dhoni got his final reprieve at the edge of his century when Mendis made a meal of a miscued skier. The skipper ultimately reached his second hundred on the trot at Nagpur, a chancy one indeed.

The final over didn’t unfold in India’s favour where they lost the skipper and Harbhajan and could take only five runs off, which were enough to end up with a biggish 301. Though it wasn’t as big a total as 413 but a run-rate of six is never easy to maintain.

Indian bowlers had to solve the Dilshan riddle to make serious inroads into a solid batting lineup. However, it wasn’t to be. The ‘scooper’ continued from where he left and enthralled the crowd with his scintillating stroke-play. With no wickets coming forth, Dhoni called Harbhajan early and decided not to take the power-play.

The Sri Lankans continued to pile on the agony and reached 102 in the 14th over. With a spread out field, Harbhajan finally foxed Tharanga and got him out caught by Sehwag at slip. Dhoni took the power-play in the very next over against a dangerous duo of Dilshan and Sangakkara. India bowled tightly in those five overs and the pressure brought about Sangakkara’s run-out.

It was a cat and mouse game from hereon in. While the Lankans were happy picking ones and twos, India were content giving away those and protect boundaries. That kept brewing the match for a last-ball boiler. Dilshan – in the form of his life – registered his second consecutive ODI hundred in characteristic fashion. His was the most important wicket and Nehra – India’s most expensive bowler – captured it with a clever yorker in the 36th over to set up the match. But it was not before the opener had plundered 123 runs in 113 balls with 12 fours and 2 sixes.

Mahela failed to play an influential role and the young ones were again asked to finish it off. Sri Lanka took their batting power-play in the 45th over but got off to the worst possible start, losing Kandamby and Kapugedera in a space of two balls to magical Zaheer. He continued to be India’s old-ball wizard and not only kept India in the match with a probing spell but also took three important wickets in doing so.

It was building up nicely until the final ball of the penultimate over: Mathews hit it straight to Zaheer at mid-on and what should have been at most a single resulted in four after Zaheer let it through his legs. The writing was now on the wall, just one needed from the final over. The field was brought in, only to be pierced on the very first ball and level the series at one apiece.

This was Sri Lanka’s first successful chase above 300 in the subcontinent, but the shoddy Indian fielding had more than a role in presenting the neighbors this gift, which they grabbed with both hands.

Sreesanth’s match-winning spell in the second Test against Sri Lanka sentenced the criticism his comeback call received. His ability was never under a cloud but his conduct always brought the scanners out. Despite a mediocre first-class season, the selectors kept their faith and gave the prodigal son a chance to resurrect himself. Ishant ‘s below-par outing in the first Test opened the door for Sreesanth, after which he hasn’t yet looked back.

Sree did it in style and incidentally became part of a historic Indian Test squad that climbed to the top of the rankings. A healthy impact of Sree’s revival has, though, missed many eyes and needs to be underlined.

Until Sree’s five-for, the Indian pacers looked edgy on discourteous tracks. The series was dominated more by wood than by leather. The spell by Sreesanth changed it all. Such was the magnitude of his riposte that it not only rubbed off to his teammates but also galvanized bowlers at the state level.

Zaheer was the first to pick the cue in the second inning of the final Test at Mumbai. On the morning of the final day, he did a clean-up job to finish with high-fives. The zip was back, the reverse swing was back and the old Zaheer was back. Taking nothing away from Zaheer and his prowess, he did get the signal all right and was back driving in his lane.

The T20s began last night and a stomach bug ensured Sreesanth warms the bench and Ishant takes the field; probably a destined return of favor from the Test series. By now, Ishant surely had organized his tresses and had a clear view of what to do. A fit Sreesanth was an automatic choice for the next match.

With that on mind, Ishant ran in with a lot more rhythm that reflected in his bowling. He was nippy, touching the high 130s consistently and keeping Jayasuriya and Dilshan unusually quiet. So much so that he conceded just  seven off his first three overs and could have got both the openers out, but for a missed caught and bowled and a sloppy upper-cup attempt by Yuvraj.

The bottom line was that the message had been delivered and the good thing was that it was well received and implemented by Ishant. It’s another story that he was belted for 15 runs off his last over, but then the inning was boiling over at that point.

Cut to the Ranji Trophy: UP playing Bengal in the Super League at Kanpur. Once a member of the Indian touring party to England, Ranadeb Bose had the new cherry in his hand after Bengal were scuttled out for a paltry 193. What does the pony-tailed man do? He bowls a spell of 9-4-18-5 and sends UP packing for just 62. And that’s not all. In Bengal’s second inning, Bhuvneshwar Kumar marks his run-up against a lead of 131 runs and demolishes Bengal for 104, claiming five top-order batsmen including Manoj Tiwary, Saurav Ganguly and Rohan Gavaskar. The four-day match gets over in three days, with UP bagging the match and all points.

The two lads – Bose and Kumar – must have taken a lot of heart first from Sree’s selection and then his enviable performance. Though Bose couldn’t repeat his magic in the second inning, his was a delightful spell to watch and one that promised a lot for the future.

The battery of Indian fast bowlers has never been in such a surplus. Zaheer, Sreesanth and Ishant are bowling beautifully. Add to that the resurgence of Nehra, the useful Praveen Kumar and the new-kid Ashok Dinda and you have a nice mix of right- and left-armers.  Two more lefties RP Singh and Irfan Pathan remain very much a part of the potion but not required until they get the approval stamp from the laboratory of domestic cricket.

And then those Western-heads say India lacks that one real match-winning bowler to be really considered the top Test side. Give us more Tests, is my answer!

He sported a new haircut but his customary potency went missing right through the series. The noted spearhead of India’s bowling department – Zaheer Khan – chose the most momentous day of the series to put his munitions store on display and gun down Sri Lanka. Zaheer proved to be a phenom once again and hastened India’s climb to the numero uno status of Test cricket.

Sri Lanka came out hoping to loiter and prolong their impending doom. The Sunday crowd gathered to see when the fat lady sinks. Of course, it was just a matter of time but who knew that Zaheer and Harbhajan would need just 7.4 overs to set Lanka ablaze. Zaheer set off in style, packing up the overnight centurion Sangakkara in his first over with a jaffer. The ball pitched in and just left enough to take the skipper’s outer edge and settle into Dhoni’s safe hands.

Zaheer was mixing it up nicely now when Herath got a surprise bouncer that he hit only as far as Ojha who took a nice lunging catch. The left-armer quite clearly wanted to finish off with a five-for. While Murali was fluttering like a dousing flame, his last-minute antics against Harbhajan kept the crowd amused.

Kulasekara had no idea what was coming up next, as the Khan of Indian cricket unleashed his complete arsenal. Zaheer finally put an end to his misery by bowling another bouncer. It didn’t rise as anticipated and invited a poke from Kulasekara that ended up as catching practice for VVS. That wicket made it a five-star spell for Zaheer Khan.

Nine down and one to go! The crowd got all the banners and flags organized to flaunt at the fall of last wicket. Harbhajan was bowling to Murali and wicket seemed coming every ball. It was the fourth ball of the over and Murali’s attempt to cut got a thick edge to nestle into Dhoni’s gloves. Celebrations could be seen in the field and the stands. India win the series 2-0, with back to back inning defeats for Sri Lanka. A huge win indeed, which puts Team India at the pinnacle of Test cricket.

Well done boys! Let’s see whether you keep it up or not because getting there is one thing, staying there is another.