'Zaheer is mentally lazy' - Bruce Reid
Bruce Reid, who advised India's fast bowlers during their tour of Australia last year, has come down heavily on Zaheer Khan, blaming his frequent injuries on laziness. Zaheer shot to fame during the Champions Trophy four years ago in a game against Australia, but his career has been punctuated by injuries ever since.
"Zaheer's a wonderful bowler," Reid told The Indian Express. "But he is mentally lazy and, after the World Cup euphoria, slipped into a comfort zone. Then these young guys, [Lakshmipathy] Balaji and [Irfan] Pathan, came along and he failed to respond to the pressure."
While praising Pathan and Balaji, Reid let on that Zaheer was important to the team, and that everyone had tried to guide him, but to no avail. "He needs to lose weight and get fitter. He didn't do enough running. When you return from injury you have to endure pain. There is not a single day when a fast bowler does not feel pain. Everyone of us - the coach, the captain, the physios, the trainers, former players - have spoken to him, but to no avail. He was the toughest to train. Zaheer needs to show his character now."
He rated India's bowling attack behind Australia's and England's, saying they had the rare ability to swing the ball consistently. Pathan's natural ability and Balaji's discipline came in for mention from Reid, who believed they had the right stuff for the future. "They swing the ball well. Especially Irfan Pathan, who at 20 is exceptional, but he has a long way to go. He has a natural wrist action and he swings the ball prodigiously. He still needs to find some pace, though. And that is where he could lose his way. The faster he finds out his limit, the better for him."
Reid said that Balaji was "a very good learner and a very disciplined bowler. I changed his bowling run up in Australia - pace, not length - and he responded brilliantly to it even in Pakistan, bowling interesting angles. He came on brilliantly carrying a major load in the absence of the seniors."
While the fast bowlers did have the right ingredients, they were not putting the ball in the right place. Confirming the suspicions of every Indian cricket fan, Reid said that Ajit Agarkar and Ashish Nehra bowled a few unplayable balls every over, but spoiled the effect by bowling a lose delivery. "Ajit takes an over to hit his straps and that, in international cricket, is not acceptable. Ashish also needs to be more ruthless in not giving away runs.
"We took some statistics of Agarkar and they showed that his first ball is almost always hit for a four. So we are trying to find out how we can get that to be a dot ball instead. Maybe he needs a bouncer or a yorker to begin with."