'True reflection of my efforts last year' - Zaheer
Zaheer Khan has been felicitated on being named one of the Five Cricketers of the Year by Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.
In a short ceremony in Bangalore, Rahul Dravid presented Zaheer with a leatherbound copy of the 2008 almanack. Zaheer was recognised by Wisden as "the Indian left-armer who ended England's six-year sequence of being unbeaten in home Test series". Zaheer ended the three-Test series with 18 wickets at 20.33, and his 9 for 134 was instrumental in their victory in Nottingham, a win that set up the 1-0 triumph.
Zaheer said the award was a true reflection of his efforts in the last year. He said that while he was not a great reader of cricket books he had been inspired after reading The Art of Fast Bowling by his childhood idol Dennis Lillee. "Apart from Lillee, I have followed Glen McGrath, Allan Donald and Wasim Akram."
Dravid cited Zaheer's performances as one of the chief reasons for India's successes in England and South Africa. "Zaheer's performance in England and the whole of the last year was truly exceptional," he said. "He led the attack really well and that was critical to me as the captain. I could just throw the ball to him and I knew he would run in and lead the attack well.
"I still remember the Test match we won in Trent Bridge," he said off the match remembered for Zaheer getting fired up after seeing some jellybeans on the pitch. "The game was on a knife-edge: Michael Vaughan had just scored a hundred and they [England] were just behind us. We needed a wicket as chasing anything more than 150-160 last would have been tough task on that Trent Bridge wicket.
"We needed some one to stand up and be counted. We took the new ball and Zaheer responded - he took three wickets in that spell which ensured that we won that Test match and the series. It's a just reward for some one who started off with such promise in 2000 but had to endure injuries on the way. He has worked hard and is fighting back. India's success depends on how well Zaheer does.
"After Javagal Srinath, he has taken the mantle of leading the Indian attack. With a good new group of young bowlers coming through, Zaheer has an added responsibility to lead the attack for the next three years. I wish him all the best and hope he takes care of the injuries as he has all the talent and the nous required of a strike bowler."
Wisden chose Ian Bell, Ryan Sidebottom, Ottis Gibson and Shivnarine Chanderpaul alongside Zaheer for their outstanding achievements during the English season of 2007.