Zaheer Khan, the Indian seamer, has singled out his stint with Worcestershire as the "turning point" in his career and encouraged young Indian bowlers to play county cricket to prepare themselves better for international cricket. Zaheer, who was the joint-leading wicket-taker in the 2011 World Cup won by India, joined Worcestershire in 2006 after a phase in which he had struggled with injury and was left out of the national team. He topped the Division Two wickets list that season, picking up 78 in 16 games at 29.07.
"In many ways it was [the turning point], Zaheer told the magazine GQIndia.com. "The stint at Worcestershire helped me understand the game, why I am playing and other things in terms of preparations for matches and bowling on different kinds of wickets.
"It was really important for me to play at the highest level, and to get back into the Indian side. I always knew I had the potential to perform but somehow I was not able to deliver. It was a great learning curve."
Upon his return to England in 2007, this time leading India's pace attack, Zaheer topped the wickets list again, picking up 18 wickets in the Test series, including nine in India's win in Trent Bridge.
Zaheer said county experience helped players become more independent and professional and said he'd spoken to some of India's younger bowlers, including Ishant Sharma, about playing county cricket. "I was advising all the young bowlers, like Ishant," he said. "When you are at home, in many ways you are taken care of. But when you play a county season you have to do everything yourself and still be prepared for the game. That brings in a great sense of professionalism.
"You also get a great understanding of cultures, and that definitely improves your social skills since you are out of your comfort zone. That itself is a great learning for any person, not just a cricketer."
Zaheer has been rested from India's upcoming ODI series in the Caribbean. Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel and R Vinay Kumar comprise the pace attack.