We should respect Zaheer like we respect Sachin: Dhoni

India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni backed his off-colour pace spearhead Zaheer Khan to fire against England in the 2007 vs 2010 World T20 champions clash at the Premadasa Stadium today.

MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni in Colombo on Saturday

“It’s easier to go after a bowler when he is not doing well. For me, Zaheer is the Sachin Tendulkar of the Indian bowling attack. He has been the leader of the bowling unit for a number of years now,” said Dhoni on Saturday. India managed a scrappy 23-run victory over minnows Afghanistan on Wednesday when Zaheer went for 32 in his three overs.

“We should respect Zaheer like we respect Sachin. I have full confidence in him,” added Dhoni, who, earlier this year, said that the left-arm pacer would make a good bowling coach after he retires.

Others must deliver too
Dhoni admitted that Zaheer was not in the best of form, but stressed that other bowlers need to raise the bar as well. Asked whether he would still back Zaheer in case his poor run continued, the skipper said: “It’s a difficult question to answer. It depends on the format. For me, he is an experienced cricketer but then you have to look at the format. In this format you don’t get too many matches.”

Zaheer Khan
Zaheer in action against Afghanistan on Wednesday

Both sides have an opportunity to play fearless cricket today considering their future in the tournament will not be decided in this match. Dhoni was also asked whether England would miss the versatility of Kevin Pietersen, who is a television expert for this event after his war with the English cricket authorities. “It will be slightly difficult (for England) without him in the team. It is difficult to replace a player like Pietersen. We don’t have to plan for him,”  said Dhoni.

There could be a couple of changes from the XI that figured against Afghanistan. Harbhajan Singh may make the cut just like Bengal seamer
Ashok Dinda. It was an optional practice session for the Indian team on Saturday, but Suresh Raina decided to spend a good 40 minutes tackling short-pitched bowling in the nets.  

The number ODIs Zaheer Khan has figuredin

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