England v India, World T20, Group A, Colombo September 22, 2012

Zaheer the bowling Sachin - Dhoni

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Zaheer Khan has been hailed as the Sachin Tendulkar of Indian bowling as their captain, MS Dhoni, seeks to rouse the confidence of his leading strike bowler in India's final Group A match against England at R Premadasa Stadium on Sunday.

The match is meaningless in terms of qualification, with both sides through to the Super Eights, but it holds much significance for India as they look for the sort of improved form from Zaheer that will enable them to stay true to their policy of fielding only four frontline bowlers.

If Zaheer is to mark his 34th birthday by playing in the final of World Twenty20, both he and India will need to discover better form.

"It is easier to go after a bowler," Dhoni said after a practice session at P Sara Stadium. "If you look at his performances he should get equal respect that Sachin gets. He is the Sachin for us when it comes to the bowling department.

"He has led out attack for the last few years; he has been our best bowler whatever the format. Maybe in the last few games he has not got the wickets whether it be Test cricket, ODIs or T20 formats."

Zaheer's three overs cost 32 in an uncomfortable India win against Afghanistan and you have to go back to the Sydney Test against Australia in January to discover a match in which he has taken more than two wickets. That was 19 matches ago, in all competitions.

Until Sri Lanka's pitches begin to tire, and become more conducive to turn, Zaheer's form leaves a flaky Indian bowling attack particularly vulnerable. In comparing him to Tendulkar, Dhoni has played his biggest card of all.

Zaheer is likely to play against England, and India are likely to retain their seven-batsmen balance, but there will be changes in personnel. L Balaji might be rested, as might R Ashwin, enabling Piyush Chawla and Ashok Dinda to advance their claims. But it is Zaheer whose performance will come under most scrutiny.

"We have a chance of giving Zaheer a few games because we are in that stage where we can look to do that," Dhoni said, "But other players who are part of the side we also want to give games to them so that in the knockout stage everybody has had a few games.

"We are looking to make a few changes to our playing X1 so that most of the players get at least one game before going into the next stage. Later on if we are looking to play with the fifth bowler we will be able to play the fifth bowler who suits the conditions the best.

"It may happen in this game but see how it goes in the coming game and then we will be in a better position to decide in the next stage whether we have to play with five bowlers or we can manage with four."

India still feel constrained by the fact that it was their seventh batsman, Rohit Sharma, who made runs in the 12-a-side warm-up against Pakistan and so is not easily disposable when so many other batsmen are yet to strike form.

The warning to Zaheer was clear. "If you are playing with four bowlers and a part-timer, one of the bowlers can have an off-day at any time," Dhoni said. "But if one becomes two then there is considerable amount of pressure about how you will manage the resources. It is only a few games that we have in our hand. We hope being the experienced cricketer he is, he gets back and really works for us."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on September 23, 2012, 15:40 GMT

    Ohhh no!!!!!!!!!!....now we have 2 spots in the Indian team fixed for the 2031 world cup...the God of cricket who won't retire even after his performance against New Zealand....and now Zaheer Khan whom our great captain Dhoni has claimed as the other Tendulkar...

  • may_the_best_win on September 23, 2012, 15:19 GMT

    Yeh Dhoni is absolutely right!! Zaheer is the bowling sachin as both are burden to the team at the moment ;) ... on a serious note Mr. Dhoni I have never been so impressed by sachin (I consider Lara above him) but still he is an outstanding batsman and to compare a bowler of Zaheer's calibre is like comparing a horse and a donkey

  • KEVINSL on September 23, 2012, 15:07 GMT

    to india Zaheer is a sachin. to rest of the world --- club level bowler

  • dummy4fb on September 23, 2012, 14:48 GMT

    @Zaheer Khan: Did you get what MSD is trying to ask you? You don't deserve any place like Sachine in T20.

  • dummy4fb on September 23, 2012, 14:04 GMT

    The bowling Sachin - as in another senior we would like to see retire. :)

  • BellCurve on September 23, 2012, 13:42 GMT

    Tendulkar has 33,969 international runs @ 48.94; Kallis has 24,781 @ 50.36. Zaheer has 587 international wickets @ 30.69; Kallis has 560 @ 32.10. I am not drawing any conclusions; nevertheless, these facts are certainly worthy of consideration.

  • Prakmca on September 23, 2012, 13:39 GMT

    One of the over rated bowler in indian line up is Zaheer. He is another Harbajan to indian team. He is not at all going to add any value to indian bowling attack. Comparing him with Sachin is an great insult.

    Dhoni please mind your words before saying anything. Backing players is fine, but think whether they really deserve it. Revisit Zaheer's performance for the past few matches... have he added any value???

  • 777aditya on September 23, 2012, 11:57 GMT

    With all due respect to Zaheer and Sachin, comparisons or no comparisons, both should retire immediately.

  • GRVJPR on September 23, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    Dhoni is right. For those who are saying Zaheer is not worthy of respect comparabel to sachin must keep in mind that without zaheers wickets most Sachin 100's wil be meaningless. It's easir to score runs on flat tracks then taking wickets and that too without making much fuss about it. Zaheer surely deserves respect. But as far as this world cup is concerned he is way below power

  • swapnil0058 on September 23, 2012, 10:23 GMT

    All that "Dhoni - The Politician" means to say is Zaheer should also consider retirement!!!

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