From being known as an Indian team that rode on its batsmen in the Test arena, the current No.1 Test team first rose to the challenge on the bowling front with Zaheer Khan leading the attack under Sourav Ganguly. And from there on, it has been all about making steady progress and Zaheer believes that there is no doubt that this team under Virat Kohli has one of the best bowling attacks in world cricket. Speaking to IANS ahead of the start of the home leg of the World Test Championship against South Africa, Zaheer said that not only is this an exciting time to be a fast bowler in India, but also it gives him immense pleasure to see how the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma and all have performed consistently.
"These are exciting times to be a fast bowler in India. The likes of Bumrah, Shami, Ishant, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Navdeep Saini among others have proven the fact that the current Indian team is a powerhouse of bowling and it is by far the best bowling attack in the world.
"It feels fantastic as a fast bowler and I hope they keep putting in the hard work and maintain the rhythm which has seen them achieve results," he said.
India's rise to the top of the Test rankings has a lot to do with skipper Kohli's love for the longest format of the game and the emphasis he puts on thriving in red-ball cricket. One of the few to have had the fortune to play under Ganguly, Dhoni and Kohli (in the IPL), Zaheer believes that the current India skipper is a lot like his first captain in international cricket - Sourav Ganguly.
"Sourav made us believe that we can win oversees and inspired us to play with a lot of aggression. Dhoni was calm through tough situations, yet aggressive in his approach. We won the World Cup under him, so it was always very special playing under his leadership.
"Virat is a lot like dada (Ganguly), he is expressive, bold in his decisions and always pumps the team up through crunch situations. His sublime batting form is always reflective of the way he leads the team on field. I wish to see him lift the World Cup for India one day," he explained.
While Bumrah is unfortunately missing the upcoming series against South Africa due to a stress fracture, any talks with Zaheer is incomplete without discussing the bowler he has seen literally grow up and come through the ranks.
"I have tracked Jasprit's progress since a very young age. Since his early days with Mumbai Indians he was extremely talented and I am happy as to how over the years he has been able to nurture himself well and brought out some stellar performances for his team.
"His awkward action has worked really well for him, I feel he just needs to keep working on his fitness and keep evolving without putting too much pressure on himself," he said.
Asked about the Indian pace bowling attack as well as the bench strength which might need to stand up and deliver in Bumrah's absence, Zaheer said: "The current pool of fast bowlers is the best India has ever had for sure. I feel India is already a side a watch out for in the world as far as fast bowling is concerned. I am looking forward to this series to see the kind of combination they go in with because generally you have seen two spinners being played even if there is help for the fast bowlers.
"Everyone (young bowlers) has their own style. Saini has impressed with his pace. I feel in the longer format he can have a great impact because of the consistency of length that he has shown. In the longer format I feel Saini will have more edge. Deepak Chahar has been very good with his swing. He is someone who has been using the outswingers to great effect. Chahar's strength has been swing with the new ball while Saini's strength is his pace and Khaleel Ahmed has been good with his variations."
Commenting on Rohit Sharma's promotion to the opening slot in Tests, Zaheer said that considering the batsman's current form, it was important to draft him into the XI.
"You can't really keep a player of his caliber out of the playing XI, especially after the kind of form he has shown in the last six months. We will have to wait and see if he has the skills although I have no doubts," he said.