Gul and Zaheer, the silent destroyers

Updated: 29 March 2011 12:47 IST

Pakistani paceman Umar Gul has so far won just one man-of-the-match award and India seamer Zaheer Khan none, but they are their teams' silent World Cup destroyers.

Gul and Zaheer, the silent destroyers
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New Delhi:

Pakistani paceman Umar Gul has so far won just one man-of-the-match award and India seamer Zaheer Khan none, but they are their teams' silent World Cup destroyers.

The duo are expected to have a huge impact when their teams clash in the blockbuster World Cup semi-final in Mohali on Wednesday, although they have been largely over-shadowed in the build-up to the match.

Currently in focus are Indian opener Sachin Tendulkar's much-anticipated 100th international century, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi's leadership skills, Indian Yuvraj Singh's all-round exploits - and the match pressure.

Gul and Zaheer will definitely come into the picture when the ball is in their hands, whether new or old, because they have consistently provided crucial breakthroughs to help their sides seize the initiative.

Spinners and batsmen were in the news more than pacemen in previous matches, but Zaheer and Gul managed to leave a mark with their disciplined efforts.

Their main contribution to their teams' victories is they have succeeded in overcoming unfriendly conditions - low, slow tracks - with their clever variations in pace.

Zaheer has so far bagged 17 wickets, the second-highest in the tournament, and Gul 14 in seven matches.

Gul's lone man-of-the-match award came at Pallekele in Sri Lanka where be bagged 3-36 against Zimbabwe.

India and Pakistan have often changed their bowling combinations but always relied on Zaheer and Gul, who were instrumental in creating pressure while their spinners struck from the other end.

Zaheer's ability to reverse-swing the ball has surprised even the best, as was seen during the tied game against England in Bangalore last month when he removed well-set skipper Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell.

"It's great to see how Zaheer has also quietly gone about doing his job for the team," former Australian wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist wrote in his column in an Indian newspaper.

"In almost every game he has provided early breakthroughs. He has come a long way in the last few years and his ability to reverse (swing) the ball in the second spell is second to none."

Gul's ability to extract bounce even on slow tracks and unsettle batsmen with yorkers and reverse-swing has stood his team in good stead.

He said he had been getting used to open the bowling at the urging of coach and former paceman Waqar Younis.

"For the last two to three years, Waqar Younis has been telling me to get prepared to use the new ball in the World Cup. I have returned to my best form by bowling with the new ball again," said Gul.

Gul, who took four wickets in the opening three matches, lifted his performance against big teams as he grabbed three wickets each against New Zealand and Australia.

Zaheer has so far taken 269 wickets in 189 one-day internationals and Gul 133 in 87 matches.

Topics : India New Zealand Pakistan Cricket Umar Gul ICC World Cup, 2011
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