South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 2nd day December 27, 2010

Zaheer Khan shows why he is 'the man'

As a versatile, thinking bowler who doesn't rely on pace for his wickets, and, more importantly, as the fast bowling captain and coach of the team, Zaheer Khan transforms India's attack from average to potent
97

How much of a difference can Zaheer Khan make? Bowling off 13 paces, not much faster than 130kph, he was joining a pack of bowlers who'd lacked purpose and direction in Centurion, conceding five an over, taking four wickets in 130.1 overs, bowling India out of the game. Zaheer is a good bowler all right, they said, including the former South Africa greats. But how much of a difference can he make to this seemingly hopeless attack?

Perhaps they have not seen Zaheer operate in far less helpful conditions, using the rare combination of skill and that shrewd bowling brain. Perhaps they don't realise that along with Dale Steyn, he is the only current Test bowler to have mastered all three balls - Kookaburra, SG and Duke. Perhaps, most importantly, they haven't noticed how Zaheer is much more to this team than just a bowler; he is the bowling captain and coach too.

The other Indian fast bowlers shine here and there, but they are more like the bully kids in the neighbourhood who come out of their house only when they know daddy is watching over them. Daddy wasn't watching over them in Centurion. Zaheer might have taken only three wickets today, one of them bowled off the edge of the thigh pad, but he was the captain in the field. When Sreesanth was struggling in his first spell, Zaheer was making gestures all the way from fine leg. And Zaheer's gestures are the ones that work with Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma. He understands their bowling, and they respect him.

By the time Sreesanth came back for his second spell, from Zaheer's end, the bowling captain was at mid-off, putting an arm around Sreesanth as he painstakingly - after many rituals - marked his run. Zaheer was trying to coax a better delivery out of him, a better delivery he knows Sreesanth is capable of. Sure enough it arrived, a peach to take out AB de Villiers at the stroke of lunch.

However, those gestures did not work on Sreesanth in the first spell. He made it as difficult as he could for Zaheer to create breakthroughs, giving away 16 runs in his first two overs, releasing any pressure that the senior partner was creating. Alviro Petersen too did his bit, playing five and four deliveries each in Zaheer's first two overs, and keeping Graeme Smith away from him,.

Turned out they were just taking their time to authenticate the travellers' cheque that Smith seems to have become for Zaheer. The cheque was duly encashed. Of the five balls that he bowled to Smith, two swung away and one seamed in towards him. He has now taken out Smith 10 times in 21 international innings. In the battle between opening bowler and opening batsman, that is a huge edge. That is the hallmark of a special bowler; once he sees a batsman's weakness, he preys on it, technically and psychologically. Ask his former India captain Sourav Ganguly, whom he removed four times in two domestic finals in 20005-06 and 2006-07, for three ducks and a 90.

Zaheer also showed that the general criticism leveled against the Indian attack - the lack of pace - isn't really significant. He barely ambled in, and bowled in the early 130s. Everything he did was part of a plan. Most instructive was the over to Hashim Amla, after the latter had got off to a good start. Zaheer bowled two deliveries wide of off, angling away, and then came the inswinger. It missed the edge, but created doubt.

Yes, there was some luck involved in how he bowled Petersen, but he had troubled the batsman before too, getting a thick edge with the second ball of the innings, and then beating him more than once with the inswing. That, and the Jacques Kallis run-out, was just the stroke of luck India needed on what has largely been a luckless tour. And then Zaheer owned Ashwell Prince, both with the swing away from him and the seam in.

Ishant and Harbhajan Singh, for a change, had circumspect batsmen to bowl at. Harbhajan responded exceptionally on a fast bowler's pitch, in addition to holding a difficult catch at fine leg. He loved the bounce, and the unsure batsmen, and out came the long-shelved doosra too. Amla's was the big wicket, and three other quick ones followed. However, Harbhajan, who took one more wicket than Zaheer did, gave the returning seamer his due.

"In the last press conference I had mentioned that other people can definitely do the job, and I will stick to those words," he said. "But obviously Zaheer is an experienced guy, and whenever he plays, he plays a major role in the bowling department. It's great to see how he approaches each game and takes crucial wickets. He has been outstanding. Not just taking wickets, he helps other bowlers also to take wickets. He is the man."

The opposition felt the same way too. When asked what difference he saw in the side that could manage just four wickets in the first Test, de Villiers' immediate response was: "They got Zaheer back into the attack. He's a world-class bowler, and put us under pressure from the word go."

Again, how much of a difference can Zaheer make?

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on January 1, 2011, 3:12 GMT

    The main reason y i less like sachin-Smith on Ten's approach - "On the final mrng of the first test at centurian, with India's last two wickets needing 30 runs to avoid an innings defeat, Tndlkr didn't farm the strike. He expsd Srsnth and, after his dismisl, Jaidev Unadkat to the fiery quicks, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Srsanth fell when he was given three balls to face from Morkel, and Unadkat when he had to deal with an entire over from Steyn"

  • rohanblue on December 30, 2010, 11:17 GMT

    ZAK rulezzz forever, you rock buddy, proud of you...

  • Vijay_MatchWinner on December 29, 2010, 9:50 GMT

    Zak is an excellent bowler ;) he makes huge difference and gives enough confidence to the team. Way to go man!

  • on December 28, 2010, 10:57 GMT

    He is "The Man".......................

  • on December 28, 2010, 10:05 GMT

    YES! Zaheer again proven himself.. he's important part of World's Number ONE team.

  • hurrysh on December 28, 2010, 9:37 GMT

    We (indians) never give our bowlers their due. May it be Kapil or Kumble. They are the only reasons we have won quite a few matches in the past. ZAK once again proved why he is the MOST important player in the side.

  • Dorababu743 on December 28, 2010, 9:14 GMT

    Common ZAK show the same in the 2nd innings too.

  • piya.sn on December 28, 2010, 8:37 GMT

    love ur words Siddharth. each and every word is so true. the thing is that despite all the hard work he puts in, Zaheer hardly gets this much appreciation. Specially when his wicket tally for the match is not at top of the list. He has been our team's MAN for the last 4 or 5 years.The Indian team just can't do without him. Though he doesn't get acknowledged much at international level as most of the time he's bowling on Indian pitches, not suited to fast bowlers, and other international bowlers, get lucky here. He should get the applause and admiration he deserves and it seems that he's started getting it. Hope he keeps on firing in the world cup and thereafter. Lots of wishes to him and the team...

  • on December 28, 2010, 7:54 GMT

    If Zaheer had played in fast bowlier friendly pitches he could have been a McGrath. Imagine if this guy can take couple of hundred wickets in Indian pitches with no support whatsoever from other side, will do on a side playing on sporting wickets consistently.

  • fkauser on December 28, 2010, 7:44 GMT

    Hi....I know that india is having only one of the best after srinath is Zaheer....and he taking full care of bowling department.....and one more to indian selection and team management.....please send all the worldcup playing ....guys back after test oelse if they get injuries in south africa ODI they will be out for world cup coz india is having only 2 weeks before world cup to rest...think about it

  • on January 1, 2011, 3:12 GMT

    The main reason y i less like sachin-Smith on Ten's approach - "On the final mrng of the first test at centurian, with India's last two wickets needing 30 runs to avoid an innings defeat, Tndlkr didn't farm the strike. He expsd Srsnth and, after his dismisl, Jaidev Unadkat to the fiery quicks, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Srsanth fell when he was given three balls to face from Morkel, and Unadkat when he had to deal with an entire over from Steyn"

  • rohanblue on December 30, 2010, 11:17 GMT

    ZAK rulezzz forever, you rock buddy, proud of you...

  • Vijay_MatchWinner on December 29, 2010, 9:50 GMT

    Zak is an excellent bowler ;) he makes huge difference and gives enough confidence to the team. Way to go man!

  • on December 28, 2010, 10:57 GMT

    He is "The Man".......................

  • on December 28, 2010, 10:05 GMT

    YES! Zaheer again proven himself.. he's important part of World's Number ONE team.

  • hurrysh on December 28, 2010, 9:37 GMT

    We (indians) never give our bowlers their due. May it be Kapil or Kumble. They are the only reasons we have won quite a few matches in the past. ZAK once again proved why he is the MOST important player in the side.

  • Dorababu743 on December 28, 2010, 9:14 GMT

    Common ZAK show the same in the 2nd innings too.

  • piya.sn on December 28, 2010, 8:37 GMT

    love ur words Siddharth. each and every word is so true. the thing is that despite all the hard work he puts in, Zaheer hardly gets this much appreciation. Specially when his wicket tally for the match is not at top of the list. He has been our team's MAN for the last 4 or 5 years.The Indian team just can't do without him. Though he doesn't get acknowledged much at international level as most of the time he's bowling on Indian pitches, not suited to fast bowlers, and other international bowlers, get lucky here. He should get the applause and admiration he deserves and it seems that he's started getting it. Hope he keeps on firing in the world cup and thereafter. Lots of wishes to him and the team...

  • on December 28, 2010, 7:54 GMT

    If Zaheer had played in fast bowlier friendly pitches he could have been a McGrath. Imagine if this guy can take couple of hundred wickets in Indian pitches with no support whatsoever from other side, will do on a side playing on sporting wickets consistently.

  • fkauser on December 28, 2010, 7:44 GMT

    Hi....I know that india is having only one of the best after srinath is Zaheer....and he taking full care of bowling department.....and one more to indian selection and team management.....please send all the worldcup playing ....guys back after test oelse if they get injuries in south africa ODI they will be out for world cup coz india is having only 2 weeks before world cup to rest...think about it

  • 123maaz on December 28, 2010, 7:31 GMT

    It was just dreadful to c Tendulkar expose the tail on the eve of 1st test, any how India was loosing this test but what made more difference is he should have avoided embarassing innings defeat by not exposing tail. Dont know exactly wht was playing on his mind but defemetely not a right thing to do even very few persons noticed this as every 1 was toxied with his 50 century.

  • indianpunter on December 28, 2010, 7:23 GMT

    India has to think seriously about Rahul Dravid's place in the team. His useless hundreds against a hapless NZ team has skewed everyones thoughts. Just look at the manner of his dismissals. In the first innings, he tried to graft, but was undone by a good ball. In the 2nd innings, he tried to be positive.. and ended up chasing a wide delivery. In short, whatever he is trying, is not working. It is beyond him now and at 38 he isnt getting any better. If Dravid is in the team for the third test, India have lost it already. Think ahead,India and think again. Is Dravid going to get your job done. The answer, sorry to say, is a resounding NO!!

  • on December 28, 2010, 6:25 GMT

    I prefer to call it the Zack - Attack. It's not fast, its not powerful, and relies more on his brain than anything else. The wickets are sometimes set up over the space of many overs, and bowling partnerships. Its genius at work, the Zack and Dhoni field placement and planning.

    The batsman never knows what hit him :)

  • stormy16 on December 28, 2010, 5:59 GMT

    If I recall right Zaheer made his debut the same time as Yuvraj and it was obvious India has found two stars. He is a great bowler and without pace has to make up with pure skill of which is he has as much as any going around. The beauty about him is he is multiskilled so if there is no pace or bounce he can revert to something thing else like vary the pace orlook for swing. For me the greatest thing about Zaheer is what he does with the old ball on conditions where no other pace bowler can do anything and that takes some serious skill.

  • Dadagiri2011 on December 28, 2010, 5:54 GMT

    I have read the comments from some which said that when Australia were at their prime every bowler was a match winner. But if we look at matches they played without Mcgrath and Warne we can see that the opposition was more on level terms with them. India tour of 2003 is one example where India almost pulled off a series victory. As far as this Indian team is concerned, the bowling department is not that bad as it is made out to be. They were quite listless in the first test but that could be from inexperience and frustration since they were not getting the same meat out of the pitch which had eased out considerably by the second day. Also it bodes well for this team that all the other bowlers look up to zak for guidance. This means that there is less scope for one upman ship.

  • on December 28, 2010, 5:50 GMT

    I think Zaheer is new Sachin...for india....everything depends on him....

  • anver777 on December 28, 2010, 5:40 GMT

    Surely Zak's bowling had given a new life to this match & series.....2nd test is evenly & interestingly poised.......its any body's game !!!!!!!!!!!

  • on December 28, 2010, 5:35 GMT

    As a huge fan of Zaheer, I sincerely hope he, and importantly his presence in the team, are responsible for India winning this Test and squaring the series...but, having no great fast bowling partner, it is going to be very tough...wish India had the likes of either a Munaf or a "fully fit and raring to go" Irfan..Bhajji himself seems to have come alive with Zaheer in the team, which is always good news, especially since SA will bat in the 4th. innings. I believe the next Test series is after a few months, so I hope Irfan gets over his health problems and comes back to his earlier form...having Zaheer and Irfan bowling again in tandem will be super to watch and, importantly, great for India.

  • on December 28, 2010, 5:27 GMT

    Its better not to keep any hopes on Sachin for this series. He has done his part by scoring 1 century. Throughout his career, he never scored more than 1 century per series...

  • Sachin7 on December 28, 2010, 5:23 GMT

    whether others agree or not i dont care a damn, but to me Zaheer is the best fast bowler right now in the world and not steyn. Its not that he has taken 3 and created a difference and thus am saying. I already posted the same even before the series started and i repeat the same again. Steyn looks average when the wicket becomes flat but Zaheer still produces magic on flat roads that we get at home in India on most occasions. The truth is Zaheer the best fast bowler and then comes Steyn.

  • nomikshah on December 28, 2010, 5:21 GMT

    This is the same team which got clobbered out of 2007 world cup in the first round. India should enjoy its number one status as long as it can for the bowling lineup that it has. If the teams cant play the likes of Zaheer Khan's and Ishant's and Sreesanths, they don't have any right to challenge India for the #1 spot.

  • on December 28, 2010, 5:18 GMT

    What !!!!!!!and all this time I thought Tendulkar is " the man"......welll let us see how Zaheer is different from Tendulkar in the second inning ? whill he 'expose the tail enders' the way little master did at Centurion.....

  • KrashNBurn on December 28, 2010, 5:17 GMT

    Zak's the man. Now it upto to Lax, Che & MSD to put the runs on the board. If India can get near 300, SA will really be up against it. Hope the weather remains the same and SA do not get any undue advantage if the pitch eases out. Seems no matter from which team batters these days dont do well against good bowling attacks under helpful conditions.

  • on December 28, 2010, 5:00 GMT

    @ Muhammad Faisal.. since u r a pakistani, i shud assume u knw more about fast bowlers n fast bowling than i do. (as I would know more about batting.. ;) )Even so.. IMHO u shud remember the kind of bowlers aqib javed had bowling from the other end.. plus.. as far as i remember he never did.. or for that matter had the capacity of leading a bowling attack.. he was too wayward.. even Sreesanth bowled a beauty to AB Devilliers yesterday.. doesnt really mean i wud refer back to this in 2028 and say that Sreesanth was a greater bowler than.. let's say Mohd Asif because of that.. :P ... Zaheer is a great fast bowler.. certainly better than anyone u have in pakistani attack.. and wayyyy better than Aqib Javed

  • KannanSR on December 28, 2010, 4:49 GMT

    Due Credit to Zaheer.Let's Pray that he stays long without getting Injured.Equally impressive was the Fielding Heroics by this Indian XI.They played as a unit.Took wonderful catches - Dravid - Pujara - Bajji and ofcourse Dhoni the Captain.But Definitely Sachin and Dravid has to take responsibility for the inept batting displayed in this test,when it really mattered and when the bowlers has given an advantage.Let's hope that India Squares the series.

  • Morpheus273 on December 28, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    Zak has surely been India's strike bowler for close a decade now. It is in the last 3-4 years that he has become one of the best Left Arm bowlers in the world. Yes, he does not have the pace now that he used to have when he broke on the scene, but, he has matured into a thinking bowler. With the same skills that he has now, if he would not have lost the pace he initially had, he would surely be one of the best of all times. He would have twice as many wickets he has now to show for his efforts. Recurring injuries forced him to reduce his speed and focus more on the lines and lengths to get wickets. Oppositions dont take him lightly as they used to earlier and batsmen prepare really well before facing him. Best eg is Mr Smith preparing to play against Zak...PREPARATION TP FACE ZAK-->SMITH FORFEITS TO TAKE THE FIRST STRIKE AND ALLOWS PIETERSON THE HONOURS. What a brave leader. Like I wrote in another article, WE WILL EITHER SEE A SMITH'S BROKEN FINGER OR A CART-WHEELING OFF STUMP.

  • braju on December 28, 2010, 4:24 GMT

    Seeing Sachin's approach in all the four innings played so far, seems like he is trying to play little aggresively rather then spending some time on the crease. If we see Sachin's dismissal's in all the 4 innings, he got out cheaply because of his agressive intent. Hope he will come good in the 3rd test.

    Thanks Bhim

  • mysay on December 28, 2010, 3:55 GMT

    Mr. Zaheerfan, I find your comment very contradictory. Do you really think a team who mainly depends on one bowler deserves to be No.1? I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but, in my opinion the No. 1 team should have a well balanced bowling attack and solid batsmen. India have good batsmen and no question about that, getting them to click when victory is in sight is though a problem, as they barely get there, and that too is with the tail. Not every team has a bunch of good bowlers, as Mr. Insightful rightly said, take out DS from SA and their attack would be pretty mediocre as well, but then again, SA is not the No.1 team. When Aussies dominated world cricket, look at the caliber of the bowlers they had Waugh, Mc Grath,Lee,Gillespie,Kaspro and if one or two did not click the rest would have done it, that's why they were consistent world champs. Therefore India, you need to take a serious look at your bowling department, if to be worthy of No.1. Cheers mates.

  • anonymousfan on December 28, 2010, 3:50 GMT

    And Greg Chappell wanted Zaheer out of the team permanently. No wonder Australia is performing so poorly now that he is in their scheme of things.

  • on December 28, 2010, 2:51 GMT

    Zaheer is certainly by far India's best fast bowler. What makes him special is his ability to swing both ways. Not to forget his Reverse Swing Bowling Capability which he has displayed many times. Coming to bowl for a short spell and breaking the parnership, most probably by getting batsman out by LBW or Bowled. India did well on 2'nd day. Excellent bowling display. Ofcourse they've lost 4 wickets for 94. I would like last 6 batsmen to add 200 runs which is possible if we can have a one or two good partnership. Go Laxman, Dhoni. Also Cheteshwar Pujara has played well according to me and he certainly deserves to take Raina's place in the team as of now.

  • SFGoldenGate on December 28, 2010, 2:49 GMT

    As A Saffars I want to congratulate the Indian team. ZAK is really world class and he proved it. We expect this kind of fight from the no 1 team. Saffars at least produce pitches where other team also have chances. Only things you have to do is to utilize the condition. Now even without the overcast condition you got the Saffers. And I am seeing that many Indian fans are also positive today, not making any excuse.:) Yes, you could have done the same in the first test too. Problem is when nothing goes right the fans always make excuses, but the team did what should be done. They prepared themselves and always bettered thgemselves, unlike the fans. Anyway, still few days left in the test. Good luck to both the teams.

  • on December 28, 2010, 2:45 GMT

    The other Indian fast bowlers shine here and there, but they are more like the bully kids in the neighbourhood who come out of their house only when they know daddy is watching over them. Daddy wasn't watching over them in Centurion. :D :D

  • Street_Hawk on December 28, 2010, 2:27 GMT

    If India is struggling to find proper partner for Zaheer, I think the selectors have to take the blame...The selectors go by hype and not by domestic performance. India needs to prepare a good reserve bench for fast bowlers like England have. Sreesanth is good but he is more aggressive than effective...Ishant does not perform quite often..he has the height but not the pace..Bowlers who does not have Zak's experience need to have some pace...That's why I don't understand sending Jaidev Unadkat...Umesh Yadav does not have domestic performance..bowlers like R. Vinay Kumar or Pankaj Singh will never play a test match for India despite their strong domestic performance. I don't know what's the point of having domestic competitions like Ranji Trophy if perfomances there are not even considered and IPL performances are only considered.

  • on December 28, 2010, 2:19 GMT

    why did mark boucher not farm the strike and save the tail? care to answer Mr Smith?

  • hotmyshot on December 28, 2010, 1:44 GMT

    zaheer is the best at the moment there is no dought about it but they should give chances to irfan pathan who is all rounder,also praveen kumar who is also good,munaf patel,ashis nehra, why they travel to south africa without bowlers they go with new bowler i never herd his name before just imagine.....

  • on December 28, 2010, 1:34 GMT

    Any team that has a place for a player of Sreesanth's calibre cannot be qualified to be #1. Better to try newcomers.

  • on December 28, 2010, 1:07 GMT

    I don't understand this obsession "Indian bowlers lack pace". Steyn and Morkel are no faster than Ishant or Sreesanth. Steyn got Tendulkar out on a delivery that was around 132 mark. There is no express pace in SA attack. Express pace is of the likes of Akhtar and Lee and Steyn and Morkel are at least 10kmph short of them. What differentiates Steyn from Sree or Ishant is the amount of bad balls they bowl. Sree or Ishant are far too short, far too on off side or far too down the leg. While Steyn ely Steyn maintains the 85mph delivery on off stump. If any ball moves a bit - he gets a wicket. Surely Steyn is not a wizard like Zaheer.

  • Des_65 on December 28, 2010, 1:05 GMT

    On the first day of the match, I saw weather forecast for all the 5 days of this test match at Durban. 1st and 2nd days were cloudy and the 3rd day was slightly sunny. But 4th & 5th days were cloudy again. If weather forecasts are correct and India could bat most of the fourth day (at least 2 sessions), SA will be into trouble.

  • Des_65 on December 28, 2010, 0:57 GMT

    Some fan asked about Munaf Patel. In the current Ranji season, he did not bowl in the second innings of Railways innings. In the first innings, he took 4 wickets. Either is injured or been asked by BCCI to take rest, may be for the World Cup or the third test in SA. But, one of the reasons for India losing a test match in SA during last visit was that Munaf was unfit to bowl although he was in the playing 11.

  • on December 28, 2010, 0:21 GMT

    As a dies hard Indian fan, I am not sure India will pull this of. I really want to see the series come alive and India win. If India lost this match the batsman have to take the responsibility. I think Sehwag and Dravid should reprimand because of the way they got out. Sachin got out a good ball, although he could leaved it alone. Everything is now depend on Very Very Special Laxman and co. I just hope India win and rascal South Africa lost. I hate this SA more than anything else

  • on December 28, 2010, 0:17 GMT

    go zaheer go if only munaf could be in the team

  • simz504 on December 27, 2010, 23:11 GMT

    Just imagine how many more wickets he could get if only Zaheer had a partner, like Morkel or even one of the England bowlers.

    Zaheer is the unsung hero after VVS Laxman. VVS shines in huge moments which get noticed every so often, but Zaheer has just been a consistent wicket taking threat when all other seamers look clueless and lost.

    Quote: "I recently read someone rightfully say: Zaheer is to India's bowling what Tendulkar was to India's batting in the '90s. Regardless of the result in this Test, with Zaheer in the team (and half decent bowling support), India becomes a top notch Test team no matter what conditions."

    I agree. Zaheer is Indias bowling version of what Tendulkar used to be in the 90s for batting. Just as I love watching Sehwag score at a run a ball, there is nothing sweeter than watching Zaheer bowl out a batsmen using his brains and not his pace.

  • on December 27, 2010, 23:00 GMT

    As I have been predicting, SA has been skittled out for less than 150 in the first innings. Now hoping that the sun comes out blazing tomorrow and bakes the pitch flat like it did for SA last test. The last 6 Indian wickets are capable of adding 300 runs to the total, provided the wicket gets flat. So, let's go Sun, shine on India!!

  • senthil7000 on December 27, 2010, 21:48 GMT

    Zaheer's another 5 for is around the corner....

  • Podarite on December 27, 2010, 21:18 GMT

    The Title & its Antedotes reveal it all..The Presence of Zak in the Xi itself is a big Moral-Booster & it also inspires Sree & Sharma to give their best...The Presence of Zak forced Smith to Forfeit first strike,but still he got the better of his Bunny!

  • GeorgeKruz on December 27, 2010, 21:10 GMT

    Well Zaheer is the man for now, But he is not the best, at one time Irfan Pathan was the best when he swept most of the Australian wickets in 2001, Zaheer was side lined & was struggling to fit in the slot of 15 member squad. Mohammed Nisar was the fastest bowler India ever produced, His mate Amar Sing was the next to him, What a pair India had. Amar Singh had not yet turned 30 when he died of pneumonia. Nissar died at 52. Indian cricket has not seen such a pair since. After these pair only Kapil Dev impressed me. What a allrounder we had. At his era there were few of them, Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham, Imran Khan & Kapil Dev.

    We got Sachin after Gavaskar, After Kapil we do not have any replacement ? Sreesant is a waste for this match, could have been added Yousuf Pathan instead of Dravid as second spinner & a batsman at handy. Bhajji has been succesfull as a spinner, why not Yousuf. Good India & God bless selectors.

  • zaheerfan on December 27, 2010, 20:59 GMT

    where r all those people who criticized India for getting out cheaply in the 1st innings at Centurion?? look what happened now.. SA could not handle even the WORST BOWLING TEAM.. SA got lucky @ Centurion not only with the toss but mainly not having to face Zaheer..He is "the man" .. But the match is still in play.. I think the rest of the Indian team has to bat well tomorrow ( at least a target of 275 plus) then India has a better chance of winning the game and Shut up all the critics .. Go India GO.. We deserve to be No 1

  • insightfulcricketer on December 27, 2010, 20:58 GMT

    Its so funny hearing the SA commentary on TV that how Zaheer appears to be the one man the Indian attack depends on. Well they need to see their own attack too .Take out Steyn and SA also has a fairly pedesterian attac and there is no redhot bowler waiting in the wings either. So lets give their due we are watching a fascinating series with Steyn at his best and Zaheer leading the Indian boys capably . Cannot wait for the third-day. The extra time that Laxman and Amla displayed while batting shows how they seem to be on a different plane to their other colleagues.

  • sonjjay on December 27, 2010, 20:56 GMT

    I hope the conditions remain the same for the remaining part of the test match . I think Amla's wicket will be crucial in the second innings if we want to win it.But firstly we need to have enough runs on the board.

  • ProdigyA on December 27, 2010, 20:31 GMT

    @nlambda - totally agree with you, future doesnt look really bright, specially looking at mighty ausies going down. I dont think batting will really be a big issue as it has never been for India, if BCCI start rotating players soon enough. But its the bolwing that has always been and by the look of things will be the problem for India.

  • on December 27, 2010, 20:05 GMT

    South Africa lost the battle when Petersen instead of Smith took strike to Zaheer Khan. Maybe Smith was too busy practising how to win tosses that he forgot the other more crucial aspects of captaincy, mind games and most importantly batting. Looking forward to hom lossing the war tommorrow.

  • Street_Hawk on December 27, 2010, 19:59 GMT

    I don't know how long we have to carry Rahul Dravid..I think it's time now that he retires...we need to have young blood in the team and cannot have them all at the same time...Look what happened to Australia when all the good players retired at the same time...Rahul Dravid has done great service at # 3 position but I think Ajinkya Rahane needs to be drafted in now...he may have failures but it is time to prepare him and not repeat the mistakes of the Aussies..Pujara in place of Raina is good..Also, may be Mukund can be back up opener instead of Vijay.

  • LT11 on December 27, 2010, 19:59 GMT

    This is why SA deserve rank 2 and India rank 1.

  • on December 27, 2010, 19:33 GMT

    He is still an okay bowler compared to the greats of Pakistani bowlers. I just rate him close to Aqib Javed when it comes to skill and brains, Aqib was a shrewd shrewd bowler, but, this is what i can give Zaheer on the board. If anyone argues, go back to youtube and watch the delivery he bowled to Greatbacth in 1992 WC, when Greatbatch was taking bowing attacks to cleaners, he bowled and off break and all Greatbacth could do was haplessly watch the ball to go into his stumps!

  • Raaakz on December 27, 2010, 19:21 GMT

    Well said... Zaheer is indeed the big daddy... without him, Indian bowling is hopeless...

  • Rahulbose on December 27, 2010, 19:20 GMT

    After Kumble retired almost all matches won by India have been a result of either Zaheer Khan getting the wickets or good 2nd inngs batting. But this one is special only because of the context of the series, otherwise the pitch was too bowler friendly to judge quality of bowling.

  • on December 27, 2010, 19:12 GMT

    Very well put Sidharth, he's never mentioned whenever there's a discussion about the best bowlers around. Steyn is better but only because he's fitter and more athletic. Skillwise I dont think even he can match Zak. "He's the man!!" :-)

  • zaheerfan on December 27, 2010, 18:53 GMT

    where r all those SA fans who pointed at India for getting out cheaply @ Centurion on first day?? what do u say now.. india were just unlucky to lose the toss and Zaheer the first match.. Now Zaheer is back u can see the difference. He is th man.. But at the same time I need some good application of skills by rest of our batsmen and not let zaheer down.. Then our same IMPOTENT bowlers will get us the much needed win to Shut up every one

  • ShashidharHundi on December 27, 2010, 18:50 GMT

    Zaheer alone can not win matches for India. We need better fast bowlers.. Ishanth, Sree & Unadkat are not the answers. Give more oppurtunities to Mithun. I still feel Nehra can make a different to this test team.

  • ProdigyA on December 27, 2010, 18:49 GMT

    Where are all the people, ever ready to spit venom on India given the slightest chance. We are BACK, people, the reason y we are NO.1 in the world. Although, i agree its too early to say that we will win the match but how about 131 all out, which is lower than 136, and that too, not on a day 1 pitch, not in overcast conditions and inspite of India loosing the toss, HOWWZZZZZZAAAAATTTT. Sweet Revenge eh? GO INDIA

  • anoopshameed on December 27, 2010, 18:48 GMT

    People say Indian bowlers are 'incapable of taking wickets' and 'India win matches only at home' in the same breath. Now both these statements cannot be true at the same time because without taking 20 wickets nobody can win a Test Match. The fact that Indians do win matches at home show that the bowlers have talent , enough of which to take wickets in unfriendly bowling conditions. The subcontinent wickets can never be expected to assist swing as in England or bounce as in South Africa; because of the climatic conditions rather than anything else-the same reason why we don't see sqaure turners in South Africa. By giving a bowler friendly track South Africa has helped India erase the slight lead that they had in that department. Indians being better batsmen were more likely to win the battle on a green pitch. Match is not yet decided, but the questions of 'what would have happened had India won the tosses?' has to be taken seriously now! It seems Smith will have to swallow his words!

  • bvnathan on December 27, 2010, 18:46 GMT

    Please remember early in his career Zaheer Khan also lacked the skills early in the innings, and he also lost his place in the India team. But his tenure, long stint and spending time with English County (Worcestershire or Gloucestershire?) changed everything for him. He mastered new techniques and learnt how to use the conditions favorbale for bowling - he has not looked back since then May be it is time we have a genuine pace bowling coach to administer, advice and impart the skills required to the new bunch like Ishant, Sreesanth, Mithun etc. - there is talent in India, but they are not guided correctly to make an impact If Sreesanth is mentored and coached correctly before the start of SA second innings, I'm sure he will make a big impact with Zaheer leading to INDIAs turnaround in this ongoing test. May be Gary can request having Shaun Pollock to spend time with the current INDIAN pace bowlers - to iron out the little edges

  • ReverseSweepIndia on December 27, 2010, 18:44 GMT

    This is debatable, but "Zaheer is 2nd best bowler in the world right now". To be a dangerous bowler you need not be super fast. Johnson, Harris. Morkel bowls at high 145 but how much effective they are. They need a bouncy Perth or need a guy like Steyn to put batsmen in doubt to get their wickets. Anderson is a very good bowler in helpful conditions but not effective in subcontinent. None of the English bowler is (may be Tremlett, untested though). None of the Aus bowler is, just saw the last IndAus series nor any NZ is. Malinga is good, but yet to see how he fares in Aus and Eng in tests. Aamir and Asif are out of cricket (i used the word "right now" with my statement) Gul is very good limited overs bowler but not tests. Roach is good but untested. Steyn no doubt is best bowler in the world. Speed is nothing if you can not move the ball. Steyn is most dangerous because he moves it at 145+. Zaheer moves it and moves it in all conditions, so does Steyn but better way. So Steyn 1, Zak 2

  • Nampally on December 27, 2010, 18:44 GMT

    I woke up in Toronto simply amazed that India had taken 74 run first innings lead despite their miserly total of 205. How astonishing is this? Zaheer , the magician, even motivated a hopelessly out of form Harbhajan to take 4 wickets and the whole team fielded brilliantly.If one man can weave such magic, ensure his fitness at all costs. The same attck minus Zaheer leaked out 650 for 4. What a turn around.Thank you Zaheer. If yoiu can weave the same magic in the second innings then India will square the series.Having said this I was most disappointed with irresponsible shots and getting out of some world famed batting stars in the side. Tendulkar played rash strokes in both the innings and 3 bats not even getting into double figures! India needs another Zaheer magic in batting order too.Can VVS & Pujara build a big stand? These 2 need to put India in a strong position by playing Day 3 - just stand there and defend & don't poke at balls outside off. Runs will come if you stay..

  • on December 27, 2010, 18:37 GMT

    Now the Indians have a task at hand...to bowl out the formidable SA batting line up a second time on this pitch.

  • on December 27, 2010, 18:22 GMT

    Hahahaha,, loved this comment "The other Indian fast bowlers shine here and there, but they are more like the bully kids in the neighbourhood who come out of their house only when they know daddy is watching over them. Daddy wasn't watching over them in Centurion.".. keep it up siddharth

  • on December 27, 2010, 18:21 GMT

    So here is what sums up. Smith won the toss in Centurion and put India in on a damp and overcast condition which Dhoni thinks had won Smith half the battle. And when the Sun dried up the pitch, SA got a belter and posted that mammoth score ,which even India did in their second innings and this vindicated Dhoni's claim.

    On an even battle of condition and pitch , India came out better today. The game is not over yet. Anybody might win this test, but big mouth "Smith" and some SA fans should play and enjoy the game respectively rather than indulge in war of words.

  • Htc-Baseball on December 27, 2010, 18:19 GMT

    a well furnished article to the core,well the talking can be done later,lets go on and win this test.go zak

  • on December 27, 2010, 18:18 GMT

    Yeah Zaheer is the man.The erratic Sreesanth and Ishant were threatening to take the game away from India but a stroke of luck and Bhajj's bowling did the trick.The catching was also very good.But our Top and middle order disappointed with their efforts more so with their ill-timed callous stroke making.But lot has to be done to win this test.I only hope that the pitch doesn't flatten out because a chase of 250 can also be tricky with the ball nibbling like it did in the first two days.

  • on December 27, 2010, 18:16 GMT

    Zaheer may not be Wasim Akram, but he as good as a fast bowler can get in India. He has played a crucial role in India's no. 1 status. His presence is mighty. His impact on Indian team does not depend upon stats, it goes much beyond. He just showed it once again that he belongs to a higher league. Excellent article Mr. Sidharth

  • nnitinin on December 27, 2010, 18:15 GMT

    Definitly therez no doubt bout Zaheer leading the Indian bowling attack. Right now hez the best left quickie amongst all the teams. Hope to see come out of DURBAN as winners. to keep the series alive n to be the true number 1.

  • the_blue_android on December 27, 2010, 18:14 GMT

    What a day! Some good bowling, some amazing fielding, some very poor shot selection by both teams sets up this contest nicely. India definitely need a lead of 300 as its hard to imagine Amla, Kallis, Smith and AB fail cheaply two times on trot. Can't expect rub of green going India's way in both innings.

  • Quazar on December 27, 2010, 18:13 GMT

    I recently read someone rightfully say: Zaheer is to India's bowling what Tendulkar was to India's batting in the '90s. Regardless of the result in this Test, with Zaheer in the team (and half decent bowling support), India becomes a top notch Test team no matter what conditions.

  • OrangeC on December 27, 2010, 18:08 GMT

    This should be a lesson for those that think India's batting line up cannot handle the fast pitches. Two of the batting sides, that have supposedly been nurtured around these conditions, were sent packing for 98 and 131 respectively by some clever bowling by their opponents.

  • Play_Hard_But_Fair on December 27, 2010, 18:07 GMT

    Great transformation imparted by Zaheer yet again to the Indian bowling attack - the contrast was even more conspicuous in light of the last match where India managed just four wickets without him.

  • on December 27, 2010, 18:04 GMT

    Exactly; Zaheer was real the difference today; as if India hv got the only man to do it. We need to improve the mental part of bowlers ; what bowling coach is doing. Zaheer can't be the only man in Test's No. 1 side, the real fire power, to sustain more days at ICC No. 1 ranking chart, we need 2-3 more like him.

  • on December 27, 2010, 18:03 GMT

    Zaheeeer is the keyyyyyy....

  • on December 27, 2010, 18:02 GMT

    no doubt he is one of the best bowler of modern era..and one of the best bowler which india produced..he can take wicket against any opponent on any type of pitch and conditions..thats make him more dangerous than any other bowler in the world..he dosen't have firy pace but has a great mind..i think he has to go a long way if his body will support him...

  • hemanofindia on December 27, 2010, 17:59 GMT

    Q: Again, how much of a difference can Zaheer make? A: India win series 2-1. haha

  • on December 27, 2010, 17:59 GMT

    Not many bowlers can create the magic of bowling under 130kmph and bag wickets at the same time. he is such a thinking bowler.Zak definitely showed his class, he has given the star turn for India and that too, at a crucial stage in a crucial test. India definitely missed his service earlier and now, he has given ray of hope to square the series. great bowling zak !!

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on December 27, 2010, 17:55 GMT

    He was really good. At the start of the series it was Sehwag vs Steyn but to me its Khan vs Steyn that will decide the series. One thing most noticeable with Ind was THE FIELDING, it was better than usual and if they field like that in the 2nd inning, SA is in huge trouble.

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on December 27, 2010, 17:51 GMT

    Wonderful bowling from a much-maligned bowling attack. They have brought India back into the match and into the series. Zaheer has been brilliant and shows India's craving for a 144kmph bowler is misplaced. India is better off with bowlers who can keep bowling the right lines and lengths consistently.

  • on December 27, 2010, 17:44 GMT

    He is indeed The man. I hope at least now Indian fans realize its not the toss that made the difference in the first test, its the fact they lacked a world class bowler at the top. If Zaheer didn't play in this match, the situation may have been similar to the first test given that even with Zaheer's cushion , Ishant Sharma picked just 1 wicket, a tail ender at an economy rate of 4.66 and Sri Santh picked just one wicket at a rate of 5.12. So yeah, in the first test it wasn't the conditions that screwed the Indians over, it was Zaheer's injury.

    From a neutral perspective, I hope this match continues to have more twists and turns so I wouldn't mind waking up early in the morning to watch this.

  • dubai_cricfan on December 27, 2010, 17:43 GMT

    am proud to be an indian...moreover zak fan....zak u r amasing....with your limitations u made the attack potent..guys how much we boosted with his presence.....please selectors...send nehra and munaf to join with him....i beg u.....zak u r the best

  • on December 27, 2010, 17:38 GMT

    Stand out star in bowling department,

  • on December 27, 2010, 17:37 GMT

    I got goose bumps reading this article.. I haven't seen the match live but this article explains what Zak did for team India today.. Like they show in Indian movies that hero is the ultimate thing above all the characters in the movie, this article portrayed Zak in a similar way... He truly did a lot of difference and he truly is the man... I hope and pray team India wins this match and keeps the series alive though both the results are very much possible in this match because knowing the target the mindset of SA batsmen will change and how much ever the target is set by team India they will take their time and have capable enough batsmen to achieve it. Please team India win this match and keep your supporters hopes alive...

  • on December 27, 2010, 17:32 GMT

    Zaheer is a champ ! ... possessing the kind of record he has on the kind of wickets he usually bowls on and the amidst the mediocrity that surrounds him is amazing. He tends to bring an aura with him which uplifts other bowlers in the team to a level they never thought they could achieve.. !! long live the king..!! bow to zaheer.. !!

  • East_West on December 27, 2010, 17:31 GMT

    "...Perhaps they have not seen Zaheer operate in far less helpful conditions, using the rare combination of skill and that shrewd bowling brain. Perhaps they don't realise that along with Dale Steyn, .....", GOT GIVE IT TO YOU, SID! You are SPOT on! Zaheer is no Steyn BUT delivered when mattered the most, that too..coming from an injury and pressure to equalize, if not win, this test!! just like anyone else, my fingers are crossed!!

  • wagon_wheel on December 27, 2010, 17:31 GMT

    well written article and an apt eulogy for a man who has been tirelessly delivering the goods since the last 4 years. Here is a man whose physical frailities have often kept him away. But to his credit, whenever he bowls, he delivers more often than not. Whether it is the uninspiring pitches of the sub-continent or the paradises that English pitches have to offer, Zaheer has relished and has been successful in all conditions. India's rise to number one test ranking is as much a result of Zaheer's battles as much as it is attributed to Sehwag's bulldozing. Clearly he was missed in Centurion and we for sure need an inform Zaheer in the second innings if we are to make a match of this. Way to go Zak... the unsung hero

  • amanroy on December 27, 2010, 17:29 GMT

    Good luck India! Hope Laxman, Pujara and Dhoni will bat good enough to challenge! Well done Zaheer & Bhajji..

  • sushantkhare on December 27, 2010, 17:28 GMT

    ohh zaheer we missed u so much in first test but as u r back now and bhajji also bowl well india can win from here if we can another 125-150 run ........wish u luck we r counting on you !!!

  • on December 27, 2010, 17:26 GMT

    Totally agree with zaheers class but what's the future for India abroad. 1 man attack can't win u a series in SA. That's been the irony of Indian cricket kapil-srinath-zaheer.Looks like sachin can be reproduced but quality sustainable pack of fast bowlers are a rare breed for India. Why can't bowlers like irfan Munaf rp learn from zaheer ,take a break and play some league cricket in england or Australia ,develop lost skills of swing and pace bowling and come back fresh with new ideas. Mrf pace academy can only do so much , to go the extra yard think laterally , go learn in a different environment outside India and fast bowling will def improve. Anyone agree ???

  • braindead_rocker on December 27, 2010, 17:25 GMT

    Zaheer Khan is an awesome bowler for India since Srinath. If he had another great bowling partner, he could have done wonders. Sreesanth can be that person but needs more discipline.

    I hope Zaheer helps India win the next test and level the series.

  • kool_Indian on December 27, 2010, 17:25 GMT

    Zak - The Man... Atleast for sometime, the critics mouth can be shut!!!

  • greatest_sportsman on December 27, 2010, 17:25 GMT

    You don't need pace to do well as a seamer. Zaheer shows how it is done. Well done man!

  • on December 27, 2010, 17:25 GMT

    Its pity that Zaheer has never found a exceptional bowling partner jus lik Steyn got Morkel.... It was so good to watch Steyn and Morkel bowling and complimenting each other.. But in India there was nothin in tat sort.. Close to tat was kumble-bajji duo.... He is really miles ahead of other pace bowlers frm India... Other left armer who came close to him was Irfan Pathan.. But suddenly he is nowhere...

  • nlambda on December 27, 2010, 17:19 GMT

    It is a matter of concern that Zaheer matters so much. He is 30+ and along with VVS, RD, and SRT is due to retire in a few years. If the rest of the bowlers can't manage themselves, once these 4 retire we will be like the West Indies. Australia are "struggling" but we would be beyond that. The current crop needs to learn to bowl better on its own.

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  • nlambda on December 27, 2010, 17:19 GMT

    It is a matter of concern that Zaheer matters so much. He is 30+ and along with VVS, RD, and SRT is due to retire in a few years. If the rest of the bowlers can't manage themselves, once these 4 retire we will be like the West Indies. Australia are "struggling" but we would be beyond that. The current crop needs to learn to bowl better on its own.

  • on December 27, 2010, 17:25 GMT

    Its pity that Zaheer has never found a exceptional bowling partner jus lik Steyn got Morkel.... It was so good to watch Steyn and Morkel bowling and complimenting each other.. But in India there was nothin in tat sort.. Close to tat was kumble-bajji duo.... He is really miles ahead of other pace bowlers frm India... Other left armer who came close to him was Irfan Pathan.. But suddenly he is nowhere...

  • greatest_sportsman on December 27, 2010, 17:25 GMT

    You don't need pace to do well as a seamer. Zaheer shows how it is done. Well done man!

  • kool_Indian on December 27, 2010, 17:25 GMT

    Zak - The Man... Atleast for sometime, the critics mouth can be shut!!!

  • braindead_rocker on December 27, 2010, 17:25 GMT

    Zaheer Khan is an awesome bowler for India since Srinath. If he had another great bowling partner, he could have done wonders. Sreesanth can be that person but needs more discipline.

    I hope Zaheer helps India win the next test and level the series.

  • on December 27, 2010, 17:26 GMT

    Totally agree with zaheers class but what's the future for India abroad. 1 man attack can't win u a series in SA. That's been the irony of Indian cricket kapil-srinath-zaheer.Looks like sachin can be reproduced but quality sustainable pack of fast bowlers are a rare breed for India. Why can't bowlers like irfan Munaf rp learn from zaheer ,take a break and play some league cricket in england or Australia ,develop lost skills of swing and pace bowling and come back fresh with new ideas. Mrf pace academy can only do so much , to go the extra yard think laterally , go learn in a different environment outside India and fast bowling will def improve. Anyone agree ???

  • sushantkhare on December 27, 2010, 17:28 GMT

    ohh zaheer we missed u so much in first test but as u r back now and bhajji also bowl well india can win from here if we can another 125-150 run ........wish u luck we r counting on you !!!

  • amanroy on December 27, 2010, 17:29 GMT

    Good luck India! Hope Laxman, Pujara and Dhoni will bat good enough to challenge! Well done Zaheer & Bhajji..

  • wagon_wheel on December 27, 2010, 17:31 GMT

    well written article and an apt eulogy for a man who has been tirelessly delivering the goods since the last 4 years. Here is a man whose physical frailities have often kept him away. But to his credit, whenever he bowls, he delivers more often than not. Whether it is the uninspiring pitches of the sub-continent or the paradises that English pitches have to offer, Zaheer has relished and has been successful in all conditions. India's rise to number one test ranking is as much a result of Zaheer's battles as much as it is attributed to Sehwag's bulldozing. Clearly he was missed in Centurion and we for sure need an inform Zaheer in the second innings if we are to make a match of this. Way to go Zak... the unsung hero

  • East_West on December 27, 2010, 17:31 GMT

    "...Perhaps they have not seen Zaheer operate in far less helpful conditions, using the rare combination of skill and that shrewd bowling brain. Perhaps they don't realise that along with Dale Steyn, .....", GOT GIVE IT TO YOU, SID! You are SPOT on! Zaheer is no Steyn BUT delivered when mattered the most, that too..coming from an injury and pressure to equalize, if not win, this test!! just like anyone else, my fingers are crossed!!