The message from former India swing bowler Balvinder Singh Sandhu to Zaheer Khan is loud and clear: “Retire from T20 cricket”.
Zaheer, who will turn 34 on Sunday, may have efficiently shouldered the burden of India’s pace attack for nearly a decade now, but Sandhu felt it is time the veteran pacer shifts focus on Test and ODI cricket.
Zaheer’s poor form was one of the factors in India’s exit from the World T20. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team crashed out of the tournament on poor net run-rate despite narrowly winning their last Super Eights game against South Africa on Tuesday.
Figures of 0-32 (vs Afghanistan), 0-18 (vs Australia), 0-22 (vs Pakistan) and 3-22 (vs South Africa) are certainly not what was expected from India’s pace spearhead in the four World T20 matches he played. Zaheer, who claimed one wicket (against Sri Lanka) in the two warm-up games, conceded 94 runs in the tournament at an economy rate of 7.23. He was dropped for the England game which India won convincingly.
“I think it is time Zaheer thinks about his T20 future. Though it is HIS call in the end, I would urge him to concentrate more on Tests and ODIs. Thus, he can prolong his (international) career as well. Zaheer is a sincere cricketer and I am sure he will think about it,” Sandhu told MiD DAY yesterday.
Zaheer was first picked in the Mumbai squad (as a replacement for the injured Salil Ankola for the Ranji Trophy semis against Madhya Pradesh at Indore in March 1997) when Sandhu was coach of the Mumbai team.
Sandhu said Zaheer should not have been picked in the World T20 squad in the first place. “I don’t understand why he was in the World T20 squad. We need young legs in Twenty20 cricket. Zaheer is a good bowler, but his lengths and swing are ineffective in T20s. They are good deliveries in Tests and ODIs. Zaheer should be kept fresh for big matches and Test cricket,” Sandhu reckoned.
Age too seemed to be taking a toll, as Zaheer looked completely out of sorts on the field. Sandhu felt youngsters should
have been given a chance. “T20s are high intensity games.
The fielding has to be very sharp. You need fresh legs. Given a choice between a youngster and an experienced player in T20s, I would go with the former because he is an addition in the field. I would have liked to see someone like Ashok Dinda (who conceded 26 runs and claimed one wicket in his only World T20 match against England) been given more chances. At least, we would be developing a youngster for the future,” Sandhu concluded.