Zaheer Khan retires October 15, 2015

Zaheer 'one of the quickest learners', says mentor Naik

Zaheer Khan gained admission for an engineering degree but gave it up to pursue cricket © Fotocorp

Former India and Mumbai opener Sudhir Naik, who mentored Zaheer Khan in the early part of his career, has praised the bowler's achievements and said he is proud Zaheer had played 92 Tests for India. Zaheer announced his international retirement on Thursday, and Naik said that the bowler had accomplished "much more than what I thought he would" over the course of a 15-year career.

"When I look back, when I first saw him as a teenager after his father got him down to Mumbai from Shrirampur [a village in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra], he has achieved much more than what I thought he would," Naik told ESPNcricinfo. "He has emerged as India's best pace bowler since Kapil Dev and it has fully reflected in his impressive numbers during his career."

Naik said that Zaheer had taken the decision to retire after realising that he could not perform at his best consistently at the international level with a hurt shoulder.

"He called me last night and told me he will make it official today," Naik said. "He feels with a hurt shoulder he cannot bowl at his best at international level consistently, so he has decided to call it a day.

"He knows that the lethal yorker that had emerged as a trademark delivery for him will not be effective in his international career [anymore] and there is no way he will want to stretch himself when he is not at his best."

Describing Zaheer as "a late bloomer", Naik said that the bowler's solid grounding in academics also made him a quick learner. Naik said that the first time he met Zaheer, he was convinced the bowler would go on to play for India and stated that 92 Tests was a lot more than Naik had expected from the bowler.

"He was one of the quickest learners as a youngster. Having sound academic background did help," Naik said. "He would take just one briefing to learn the nuances of every weapon required for a fast bowler.

"For instance, I remember having told him the dynamics of reverse-swing - the positioning of shiny and non-shiny sides. And being a good student of physics, after just one briefing, he started bowling it perfectly in the nets.

"I was convinced the first time I saw him that he would definitely play for India. But considering that he was a late bloomer, I thought he would end up playing around 50 to 60 Tests. By playing 92, he has proven me wrong and I am so delighted for it."

Naik rued the fact that Zaheer missed the chance to play 100 Tests for India. In the later part of his career, Zaheer was plagued by injuries, including one to his bowling arm. Once he was dropped from the Test side following the home series in England in December 2012, Zaheer played only four more Tests - two each in 2013 and 2014.

"Three years ago, when he had crossed the 90-Test mark, we had planned how he will celebrate the century," Naik said. "Once a batsman enters into the 90s, it is natural that he would want to get that hundred. Even though Zaheer was a bowler, the same principle applied to him when it came to Test camps.

"According to our calculation, he would have made the century in 2013 itself. But then came a major injury and even after he recovered from it, he suffered another shoulder injury. It's not that he cannot bowl any longer. But he knows that he cannot bowl with that zip. He can bowl at around 125-128kph, but that is not good enough to perform for India.

"If only he would have marked a century of Test caps, it would have been a fitting farewell to a glorious career. It was not to be. I am sure Zaheer will do a great job in moulding young bowlers and I wish him the best."

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sam on October 18, 2015, 4:16 GMT

    "One of the quickest learners" -- that is total nonsense. If he was that quick a learner then how come his 100th test wicket came in his 37 or 38th tests at an average of 38? It was only after he came back from injury in 2006 spent a season in County Cricket did he become a world class bowler. Before that he had a lot of potential but was too raw.

  • Dean on October 17, 2015, 1:54 GMT

    If he is the best fast bowler India have ever produced then this sums up the bowling talent of India.

  • Neil on October 16, 2015, 23:25 GMT

    Okay here is the real deal. If India wants youngsters to blossom as they should, the BCCI should insist that they spend a season or two in England and play some of the best players in the world as well as get acclimated to the non sub-continent environments. Even Zaheer came back a better bowler after a stint in England. The Indian pitches are not conducive to any youngsters trying to bowl either fast or spin on overseas conditions. Send more youngsters overseas before they play for India and the next generation of Indian cricketers will be world beaters. Just sayin' y'all from the good old south of the USA. Peace and no hateful words to follow these incredible words of wisdom. With that said, given that BCCI won't even adopt DRS, the chances for India to be world beater is 1 of 2. 1 is slim and 2 is none.

  • Naresh on October 16, 2015, 20:11 GMT

    One of the most thinking pace bowler India had. A rare left hander. The challenge to all left armer pacers in India try and emulate this guy. He is the benchmark that we can use. Also this guy is most suitable for coaching bowlers or even opening an academy. Zaks will be missed He deserves to compensated by BCCI for putting his body through all those strains and making India win many a game.

  • Cricinfouser on October 15, 2015, 14:10 GMT

    One of the better fast bowlers who played for India. Would rate him & Nehra the best left arm fast bowling combination India ever produced. But unfortunately Zaheer's body could not withstand the rigors of the game & Nehra has been a hoplessly mismanaged proposition. I still think these are far better the current crop of fast bowlers India has in Bhuvi who bowls under 130, & Umesh who has no sense of direction at all. When we do not have any left arm fast bowler for India I think Nehra can be given another chance based on his IPL performance.

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