Enjoyed every moment
By: Sanjjeev K Samyal
ZAHEER Khan has good reason to be pleased with his performance in Sri Lanka. If Mahendra Singh Dhoni showed the way with the bat in the one-dayers, Zaheer should be credited for spearheading the attack with responsibility.
Zaheer Khan in full throttle at a practice session at the Rangiri Stadium in Dambulla, Sri Lanka last month.
Speed Gun! Zaheer Khan, the pick of the Indian bowlers on the recent tour of Sri Lanka
Success (eight and nine wickets in the three-Test and five-match ODI series respectively) did not come easy. You could see him working with almost maniacal zeal just like we saw on the opening day of the Sri Lanka series when the first session was washed out by the rain. While most of his teammates focused on remaining fresh, Zaheer used the time to tone his muscles, working out in the gym after a game of squash.
Clearly, Zaheer is enjoying the fruits of hard labour and clever execution. Now on a deserved break, the left-arm pacer took some time off for an interview to share his experience of an eventful tour dominated by spin.
How do you evaluate your performance from the slow start to the Test series and then hitting top gear in the one-day series?
The Sri Lanka series was very important to me as I was playing international cricket after nearly seven months. It was critical for me to go from strength to strength. I am happy that I was successful in achieving that.
You cannot pin point a particular session. As the series progressed, I went from strength to strength. It was a gradual progression.
Initially, I was not getting the ball in the right areas consistently but kept on improving as the series went by. I was very happy the way I bowled in the second innings at Galle. From there, I knew I just needed to keep bowling more. In the last Test too, I was very comfortable in terms of my approach to the wicket.
Which performance on tour do you cherished the most?
The spell I bowled in Dambulla (2nd ODI; four wickets for 21 runs) was very crucial. We were 0-1 down in the series and it was very important for us to win. I could provide that spell for the team which helped us win that game. I really enjoyed that performance. I really felt I was in the zone.
Are you at your peak?
I always stress on rhythm. If you are in good rhythm, you have a better chance of getting the batsman out as you are thinking about him rather than worrying about your action or whether you are able to bowl on this spot. It is very important for any bowler to get into the zone and keep going. If you are bowling well, wickets will follow.
It's natural to be apprehensive when you are coming back from injury. Did any negative thoughts bother you?
That is why I took my time to get back to international cricket.
I was very clear that physically there was not going to be much of a problem.
To get back into rhythm was the important thing. All I was concerned about was, that. It takes time as it only comes after bowling a number of overs.
Playing the Test matches and bowling long spells helped me achieve that.
I knew that Sri Lankan conditions would be tough in terms of heat and humidity but I think I coped well during
Zaheer zeroes in: We did well overall in Lanka
How do you look at the Test team's performance? Why couldn't we do well in the Tests as we did in the one-dayers?
We played well overall. There is always pressure when you are one-nil down in the series. We did well to win the Galle Test convincingly. The last Test could've gone any way. It was important for us to put up a fight and I'm happy with the way things went. We could not win the series, but we fought throughout.
Do you feel there was a different approach in one-dayers as compared to Tests, and that helped us do well in the ODIs?
Test matches and one-dayers are different. Tests have a five-day span and it is well known that it is hard work in Sri Lankan conditions. In terms of approach and the dressing room atmosphere, it was the same (in Test and ODIs).
How do you look at Kumble's and Dhoni's style of captaincy?
Test matches are very different from one-dayers but there are a lot of similarities in their styles. They both like to lead from the front. They take responsibility in their own game and they want to show the team the way. They have similarities and different styles.
Dhoni is young and has that fearlessness in his captaincy.
What has been Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton's influence on the team?
The important thing is there is good communication between players and coaching staff. There is good atmosphere. They are ready to give you space and at the same time, they are always there for you. They are always thinking of how we can go forward which is very important.
We have seen you locked in long discussions with Paddy Upton. What has been his influence on you personally?
We've had a few sessions where we have been talking about the mental side of the game how one should repeat good spells, and how to keep notes of what is exactly happening when you are in a good zone.
You play Australia next. Is there any extra motivation when playing against the world's best team?
Right now I am only thinking about how I am going to use this break well. I only want to think about things which I should be doing before an important series.
We will get together for a camp and that is the time we will plan for the Australia series.
Everyone feels Andrew Symonds' absence will be an advantage for India. Your thoughts.
Right now, we are all focused on ourselves. All we know is that we are a very good team and I am confident we will put up a good show.