|Teams Played||India, Asia XI, India A, India Red, India Seniors, Rest of India, Surrey, Worcestershire, West Zone, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians, Mumbai, Baroda, Bangla Tigers, Delhi Bulls, Indian Legends|
An Indian fast bowler who could bowl genuinely quick, reverse the old ball and dish out searing yorkers was a combination unheard of and when Zaheer Khan gave a glimpse of possessing this talent, Indian cricket opened its arms for him like a mother waiting for his child to return home.
Zaheer sacrificed a career in engineering for cricket and he had instant results to justify the call. Only after a year in domestic cricket, he was called up to the national side for the ICC Knockout Trophy in 2000. He made impact right away taking 3 for 48 on his debut. He was handed the Test cap in the very same year and he was among the wickets yet again.
He formed a good partnership with the likes of Javagal Srinath, Ashish Nehra and was instrumental in India reaching the 2003 World Cup finals. Though it was on the big day that things went awry for him. After a duel with Matthew Hayden, Khan lost the plot and ended up conceding 67 runs in his 7 overs. Many Indian fans still remember and rue the spell till date.
Zaheer signed up with Worcestershire in 2006 as their overseas player. He took as many as 78 wickets for them and showed the world that he still had it in him. It was there where he got the nickname “Zippy Zakky.” A much leaner and fitter Zak was recalled to the international team for India and became a regular for them.
In the Nottingham Test in 2007, after being triggered by the “Jelly Beans” incident, he racked up a five-fer to set up India’s famous win. He was a key figure for his captain MS Dhoni as India scaled new heights. Be it leading the team to the Number 1 ranking in Tests or winning the 2011 World Cup, Zaheer’s contribution cannot be measured by mere numbers.
It was on the tour to England in 2011 that injury caught up with him again. His absence meant India had no strike bowler and it started their horror run overseas. Zaheer along with Yuvraj Singh, went to France to get back to full fitness. He though had lost the pace and the zing in his bowling to keep going. A string of decent performances followed and in what turned out to be his last Test in 2014, against New Zealand, he took 5 wickets but Brendon McCullum’s triple ton had not just saved the game but also won the series for the Kiwis.
Zaheer ended his Test career with 311 Test wickets, second only to Kapil Dev for India as far as pacers are concerned. He though remained in action in the Indian T20 League. Having started with Bangalore, he was bought by Mumbai for a couple of years in 2009 only to return to the former franchise in 2011. In 2014, he was bought back by Mumbai but he failed to make a mark. He was signed up by Delhi in 2015 and led the revival of Delhi’s bowling. He was named captain for them in 2016 but could not lead them to glory with injuries troubling him again.
Zaheer Khan’s tactical sharpness and mental strength made him stand out among the rest. His four sixes to Henry Olonga in an ODI are a part of folklore. Not to forget his success against Graeme Smith over a period of time that showed he had one of the best cricketing brains. India will hope to make use of his skills somewhere down the line.