India in Australia 2011-12

Zaheer Khan finally makes it to Perth

It is third time lucky for Zaheer Khan, who prepares for his first Test in Perth, after breaking down early during India's two previous tours of Australia

Sidharth Monga in Perth

January 10, 2012

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Zaheer Khan picked up three early wickets, Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 1st day, January 3, 2012
Zaheer Khan: "Doesn't matter what kind of pitch it is, the distance between the wickets is going to remain 22 yards." © Getty Images
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A bright spot on India's tour of gloom has been that Zaheer Khan has made it to Perth. That on his third tour to Australia, Zaheer is making it to the third Test. Australia are an opposition Zaheer has cherished but it is not a country he has accumulated air miles in.

Tours to Australia have been a particular low point for him. On his first tour here, in 2003-04, Zaheer came down with a mysterious injury - hamstring first and discovered to be a nerve twitch later. The injury troubled him for the best part of the next two years. In 2007-08, he came here as a much more promising prospect, but lasted just one Test.

Zaheer is mature enough to see the lighter side of things. "I have finally passed the Sydney hurdle," he said. "This is the first time I am coming to Perth. Really excited about it, really looking forward to it. There has been a lot of talk about how the wicket is going to play in such and such manner. So really excited about the whole talk and the vibe going around."

More than coming to a fast bowler's paradise, Zaheer is happy at making it so deep into a series in Australia. For all the help Perth is known to afford fast bowlers, Zaheer hardly ever relies on express pace. "Honestly for me what is important is hitting the right areas and getting the rhythm going," Zaheer said. "Doesn't matter what kind of pitch it is, the distance between the wickets is going to remain 22 yards."

Zaheer has taken 10 wickets at 25.20 so far in the series. There, though, ends cause for celebration. He is part of a side trailing 2-0. He is part of a side that conceded 622 runs for one wicket after having the opposition down at 3 for 37. He was asked to rate the bowling unit so far.

"Melbourne was fantastic," Zaheer said. "We always put the team under pressure as a bowling unit. Everyone chipped in. Everyone bowled in good areas. Sydney, I felt the wicket on the first day and the second day there was a big difference. No excuses, but everyone could see that as the match progressed the wicket kind of eased off. That nip and movement in the pitch was not exactly the same as the first day. Considering all that, we have put in a good effort as a bowling unit. Going forward we are confident as a bowling unit of taking 20 wickets."

Zaheer has for long been India's bowling captain, and analysed his younger colleagues. "Ishant Sharma has played on this ground before," Zaheer said. "He came into reckoning from this ground. I am sure he has got fond memories of this ground. It is definitely going to be useful to get that rhythm back, get among the wickets, which is very important. I feel he is bowing well. It's just a matter of time."

Zaheer said the team can continue to allow Umesh Yadav some freedom and room to make mistakes. "[It is] just a beginning for him in the international arena," Zaheer said. "The way he is bowling I am very happy; the way he is taking the responsibility. I think that freedom is important for him. At this age, especially four-five Test matches in, you are allowed to make mistakes. What is important is how you are approaching the game. What attitude you bring to the ground. I am very happy with his attitude. He is a wicket-taker, so that is what his job will be going forward."

Zaheer did admit that they needed to finish things off better. "As a bowling unit we have been doing the right things," he said. "It all depends on the conditions as well, but in helpful conditions I still believe this Australian line-up can be put under pressure. We have been kind of getting them under pressure, and then just letting go of the momentum a little bit. There are a few areas we need to focus on. I am sure in the coming matches we will be able to rectify that."

The pitch at the WACA is likely to provide them assistance. Three days before the match, it looked lush green. It might have been left so to guard against the sun, which has been quite harsh in the lead-up to the game. Even if they shave it off further, the ground staff are expecting about 20% more carry than it had when India last played here, and won. The same assistance, though, will be available to Australian bowlers too, and they have had India under the pump so far in the series.

Zaheer said the team was in a good space in the lead-up to the match. "We are very focussed and quietly confident," he said. "This is not the first time we have been put in such a situation. In the past we have come out of these situations. That confidence is definitely there in the team. It's showing in the practice. There is a good vibe. There is that focus around in the dressing room, which is a positive sign."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Harry_Kool on (January 12, 2012, 12:07 GMT)

@wadaplaya. OK, I think I confused you. When I mentioned strike rate, I meant it as a percentage of winning, i.e. 4 tests out of 5 with 3 man of match awards between them. That is the strike rate I was referring to and hence why I mentioned the wins & MOMs. I would also advise against making sweeping statements after one breakdown. If there was a history, fair point, but for both of them, this is the first. In the past, guys like Lillee, Thommo, Kasper, Hughes etc would go through a woile series with injuries then have an off season operation. But these guys didn't play high impact games such as T20 which accelerate & highlight injuries. These guys are just starting their careers & are looking the real thing, plus a host of other options available, Copeland has shown he has potential to bowl well on sub continental pitches, and their are plenty of other options. No, bowling isn't our immediate problem, batting & keeping is.

Posted by wadaplaya on (January 12, 2012, 5:26 GMT)

@ harry_kool I'm not saying Zak is the fittest bloke going around. The point I was trying to make was, at such a young age, Cummins and Pattinson should be available for each and every test.Top bowlers don't break down very often. If these two can't handle the workload in bowler friendly conditions, what are they going to do when they come to the sub continent. I would like to see how long the two pretty boys last bowling on flat tracks under hot and humid conditions. Talking about their strike rates is like talking about the averages of Indian batsmen who have only played in the sub continent. It's all well and good when the conditions favour you.

Posted by anupamraj114 on (January 12, 2012, 3:19 GMT)

@aidanfx....so u r saying that aus cant play slow bowlers.....its true mate we have a sloow bowler who can swing a new ball....nd aussie top order licking the soil against him.....nd what abt warner.....hahahaha....he is not even suited to 50 ovr cricket forget tests.....nd when did aus won a series outside their home.....came to india 2 times nd were thrasssed 2-0....y only india is critisized for being strong at home.....wht abt aus??.....nd if u say they won a test in sa.....then my friend indians nd srilanka also did the same......

Posted by anupamraj114 on (January 12, 2012, 3:12 GMT)

@harry_kool.....bro pattinson broke after 4 tests nd cummins after 1....ur thoughts plzz....nd they have no rights to be compared to a bowler who has taken more than 250 tests nd odis wickets.....

Posted by donda on (January 12, 2012, 2:37 GMT)

Oh i understand , in order for Zaheer to play at WACA he had to not bowl well in sydney so that he can play at WACA finally.

What a joke. Australia were 600 for 5 and Zaheer did not put effort to take wickets to just play WACA test. So sad to see the mentality of indian bowlers.

Why don't they just play IPL and stay happy forever.

Zaheer would have taken australian visa a year ago visited WACA and live happily there after , why to under perform and play at WACA . Sad.

Posted by AidanFX on (January 12, 2012, 1:15 GMT)

@ wadapla - Sydney for the most part was a relatively flat wicket which should have benefited them but they were outclassed.

Posted by Harry_Kool on (January 12, 2012, 0:32 GMT)

@wadaplaya . Surely you are joking about Zak vs. Cummins & Pattinson given Zak's history of breaking down? He hasn't finished 2 earlier tours down here, and when you trundle in like a pensioner rolling your arm at 120 kph vs. sprinting in at 145+, there is a huge difference in effort. Oh, I think Patto's & Cummin's strike rate is a little higher, 4 winning tests out of 5 with 3 MOMs between them. With all due respect, I'll take those 2 over Zak. Pretty sure I know who all the batsmen would rather face too.

Posted by wadaplaya on (January 11, 2012, 20:03 GMT)

@ AidanFx not worried at all. Maybe you should be worried. Zak is well into his 30s and he is still fit to play the rest of the series. Peter Cummins at 18 and Pattinson at 20, seem to last only 2 test matches before they get injured. What's up? Your young guns too fragile in the fitness dept mate?

Also remember, the Indian bowlers got the better of the aussie top order in Melbourne...Everybody knows the pitch had a huge role to play in the Aussie success at Sydney(even ponting scored a century mate!)...Looking forward to Perth. Since the pitch at the WACA holds up pretty well, bowlers from both sides will have equal opportunities regardless of the toss...Lets see how well the Aussie top order does in the coming week!

Posted by AidanFX on (January 11, 2012, 14:11 GMT)

The aussies need to be on their guard from Zac's spinners - possibly the best slow bowler in India

Posted by sluxman on (January 11, 2012, 14:11 GMT)

@jkaussie - the wierd comments that a lot of press and players started making when Sachin did not get the 100 that he deserved in atleast 3 of the 4 innings he played could only point out to "jealousy". The crowds of course come to enjoy watching cricket and Sachin has always been a huge favorite and a fantastic performer in Australia. But the comments spoil the entire sporting atmosphere. As to Indian players not ruing losses inspite of individual performance, let me tell you that Sachin wept once when he scored a ton but saw India lose by a mere 10-15 runs. Cricket is a team game as much for an Indian player as for an Australian player. Why then, people ask, with so many runs scored by the Indian batsmen, the team does not win? The problem with India is their bowling. There is no Indian bowler in the last 30 years with a bowling average less than 30 runs per wicket!

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