India in South Africa 2013-14 December 16, 2013

'Zaheer shouldn't drop pace' - Kumble

ESPNcricinfo staff

Former India bowlers Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath stressed that Zaheer Khan's form will be crucial to India's chances of doing well in the Test series against South Africa, which starts on December 18. Zaheer, who last played a Test for India against England in December 2012, was picked for the tour of South Africa and is the most experienced bowler in a pace attack comprising Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma.

"Zaheer will be the leader," Kumble told The Hindu. "He will get reverse (swing) as well. [I] Just hope he bowls at his usual speed. He shouldn't drop his pace, shouldn't bowl within himself. It would be good if he can knock a few wickets upfront."

According to Srinath, Zaheer's effectiveness would depend on him bowling the right spells. "Strength and energy will be critical to Zaheer. As for line, length and strategies, he is a master at that," Srinath said to the newspaper. "It boils down to his core strength and [about] him coming in for the right spells and sustaining that energy. Another core area for Zaheer is the way he guides the other bowlers."

Zaheer is fourth on the list of leading wicket-takers in South Africa, behind Kumble, Srinath and Sreesanth. In six Tests, Zaheer has 23 wickets at an average of 32.52.

Kumble, the most successful Indian bowler in South Africa - with 45 wickets in 12 games - said that the spinners would have to deal with the challenge of additional bounce on the pitches and a softer, used ball.

"It does not spin much but you do get bounce from the surface," Kumble said. "The spinners have to take that into account when they set the field. The ball tends to get soft after 20 overs, so the spinners need to handle that in the middle overs. Between the grounds, there is not much at Johannesburg but Durban does a bit more. And if the game goes to the fourth and fifth day, the spinners will have a role."

Kumble added that R Ashwin, India's frontline spinner on his first tour to South Africa, could exploit the rough patches created by the follow-throughs of the pacers: "I enjoyed bowling there, bowling into the rough especially against a left-handed batsman. With Zaheer and hopefully (Lonwabo) Tsotsobe bowling (both being left-arm seamers), there will be a rough that Ashwin can exploit."

Both bowlers stressed that the Indian attack would have to get their lengths right, instead of merely relying on the bounce.

"The length has to be neither forward nor backward," Kumble said. "It has to be a length where after pitching, the height of the ball should be able to hit the knee roll of the pad and if the batsman snicks it, there is enough carry for the catch to be taken. You can't just release the ball, even if there is swing you need to hit the deck hard."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sri on December 21, 2013, 8:55 GMT

    Hehhh. Love to hear the eerie silence from the western and paki naysayers like RMCroos who keep accusing India of being flat-track bullies, mild tourers etc. Now that India seems to have the hang of the wickets in SA, beware RSA. It will be difficult to dislodge the confidence if India wins the first test.

  • j on December 18, 2013, 5:02 GMT

    @blthndr - the fastest ball ZAK ever bowled in his life was 143KPH - in the ranji matches he didnt even touch 137KPH.

  • udendra on December 17, 2013, 5:48 GMT

    Kumble was the greatest indian medium-pacer.

  • Munawar on December 16, 2013, 18:04 GMT

    Given the lively tracks and the pace and bounce of South African pacers in their own backyard, Wasim Jaffer's skills, temperament, experience and form were required in SA. Jaffer should have been the first opener for the Johannesburg Test. He is still easily the best Test opener in India today. Steyn, Philander and Morkel will eat Murali Vijay in the first session itself. Johannesburg is the fastest track in SA and not sure if even Kohli has the technique to survive the trio of Steyn,Philander and Morkel on that track. At the moment only Pujara and Rohit seem to have the technique and temperament to cope with them. Jaffer was easily the first choice opener in Tests. Look at his record. Even this Ranji season, in 9 innings, he has three hundreds and a fifty. Easily the best Test / first class batsman in India today. Selectors can't ignore him now. It is high time. Enough is enough.And Jaffer is just 35.He still has 3-4 years of top level cricket left in him. Hope selectors are listening

  • motikhar on December 16, 2013, 16:17 GMT

    I don't think there will be too many problems with bowling from Indian side. If they hunt in pack, and create pressure with proper tactics from the captain, and with guidance from Zak to other new bowlers, there will be no big problem. The problem will be batting. Despite big names, we have yet to see how they perform in the first test. If couple of major partnerships happen inside top 5 batsmen, India can have chance. All Indian players need is no panicking. Win, or even if you lose, lose with good fighting spirit, not like what you did in recent ODIs.

  • Dummy4 on December 16, 2013, 15:56 GMT

    The length has to be neither forward nor backward," Kumble said. "It has to be a length where after pitching, the height of the ball should be able to hit the knee roll of the pad and if the batsman snicks it, there is enough carry for the catch to be taken. You can't just release the ball, even if there is swing you need to hit the deck hard.

    -- ultimate length to bowl, esp a swing bowler on any kind of wicket. it needs dare and skill for that.

  • Dummy4 on December 16, 2013, 14:59 GMT

    zaheer was dropped from the team not so long ago and just that there are no enough fast bowling resources, he was drafted in. All this hype over his inclusion and projecting him as the demolition man will dwindle as soon as the saffers are put to bat. He may still get smith, but amla, AB, kallis are more than a handful. the typical sorry story of SA scoring 500, 600 plus and India meekly folding out for 150,200 with an odd fifty or hundred is going to repeat. India is gonna be blanked 2-0. Even if the indian bowlers do well, the batsmen are gonna cut a sorry figure as it is not IPL .One must remember that after the 8-0 whitewash, India hasn't played anywhere outside India and SA is a place where even greats like Sachin, RD, VVS couldn't manage a series win.

  • Croos on December 16, 2013, 14:45 GMT

    ohhh this india bowling team will never all out a side in test cricket!!!!

  • Ashok on December 16, 2013, 14:29 GMT

    Kumble & Srinath's comments suggest that pace is the first requisite in addition to line, length & swing. ZAK has not played much competitive cricket but appears to be fit. He has trained to conserve his energy thru' minor changes to his action. It will be the first time to try out those mods. at the International test level against a very strong batting. Even when he was half fit he was bowling well & captured a couple of England wkts. before he limped off the field. So ZAK has always been a wkt. taker. Of course he will also guide the other seamers to do things from his own observations on field. His fitness level is high but he is a bit rusty. However bowling on green top SA pitches may be an added incentive. He hits the deck at 130 to 135 KPH. Shami, Ishant & Yadev can each bowl in high 130 KPH. So it is matter of choice whether Dhoni goes with 3 or 4 seamers. India has the pace bowlers but they are less experienced than SA seamers. Can they rattle SA remains to be seen!

  • naresh on December 16, 2013, 14:23 GMT

    Zaheer is a spent force and will be dealt with easily by Kallis,Amla and co.With the Wanderers known to produce steepling bounce and this in combo with perfectly pitvhed up away going deliveries the steyns,morkels and philanders will have field days not just with this Indian batting line up but believe me even with RSD,SRT and the likes.Without being pessimisstic, as an Indian fan,I am eagerly looking forward to small contests like a couple of partnerships lasting atleast for a session or getting Kallis,Amla,Devilliers out for single digits!!!

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