Pakistan's batting great and county regular is convinced India's premier batsmen will improve by negotiating the moving ball day after day in English conditions
"The Board Of Control for Cricket in India has some tough calls to make. My main recommendation is to get their players to play county cricket. Young Indian players need exposing to a wider world outside the pampering and riches of the Indian Premier League. They need to learn how to bat and bowl in our conditions." Michael Vaughan, England's 2005 Ashes-winning captain was quite elaborate in his analysis of the recently concluded India vs England Test series.
Like Yorkshireman Vaughan and other cricket pundits, former Pakistan captain and batting great Zaheer Abbas (67) too felt India's premier batsmen would benefit from the county circuit. Cheteshwar Pujara is all set for a stint with Derbyshire. "County cricket will help them a lot. Most of us (Pakistan players) played there and it did us good. The ball seams around in England and if you can control the seaming ball, batting becomes much easier," Zaheer told mid-day from Karachi.
Zaheer watched the fifth India vs England Test at the Oval recently and was shocked to see the Indian batsmen at sixes and sevens. "I never expected this batting line-up to fail so badly; it was shocking. I think they lacked in concentration among many other factors. It was surprising to see your No 3 batsman Pujara flop and then, Virat Kohli. They seem to be good in Indian conditions but they are not able to cope on bouncy and seaming tracks."
Zaheer played for only one county – Gloucestershire County Cricket Club from 1972 to 1985, scoring 49 centuries for them and aggregating 16,083 runs in 206 games. He scored a double century and a hundred in the same match on four occasions for Gloucestershire. County cricket through the week can be a draining experience, but Zaheer felt, "if you are playing well, it is not a strain. Batting against the seaming ball can be challenging but it teaches you so much about batting."
Cheteshwar Pujara will turn out for Derbyshire. Pics/Getty Images
What made Zaheer such a colossal force in county cricket? Qamar Ahmed, the veteran cricket writer who lived in England for many years, felt that the bespectacled middle order batsman's back foot play contributed to him being highly successful. "I watched the India vs England Test series and noticed how the Indian batsmen were playing half cock to the English bowlers which is no way to play in these conditions. Zaheer, through his back foot play used to kill the movement of the ball."
Reportedly, many counties were keen to sign Zaheer after his 274 on his first Test appearance in England at Edgbaston during the summer of 1971, but Zaheer chose Gloucestershire because fellow Pakistani Sadiq Mohammad played for the county and another teammate Majid Khan assured him that he would be well looked after by his father's friend Graham Parker, who was the club's secretary-manager.
Zaheer was called Asian Bradman (he says the London Times called him that) after he scored the 274 in 1971. Three years later he scored 240 at the Oval, the very venue where the curtains came down on the 2014 edition of the Pataudi Trophy.
The number of centuries Zaheer Abbas scored for Gloucestershire from 1972 to 1985 on the county circuit