In 2000, I was a 9 year old fat boy. I was couch potato who used sit in front of T.V whole day. It was a transitional phase for Indian cricket. Along with Indian cricket it was transitional phase for me as well. There, Ganguly took the reigns of team India, lot of talented youngsters were coming in the Indian team & here a cricketer in me was born. Zaheer Khan was one of those talented youngsters who made their way in the Indian team. In that phase Zaheer Khan made his debut in international cricket while I made my debut in gully cricket. Normally in that age every kid enjoys breaking the glasses with the bat in hand but I wanted to be a fast bowler like Zaheer Khan in that age. He used to ball perfect yorkers during that time. Actually during that time his yorkers impressed me the most and as a 10 year old boy, I just wanted to bowl like him.
Now to bowl like Zaheer Khan I started copying his action. After bowling every ball I used to ask my friends ‘Do I bowl like Zaheer?,’ That kind of impact he had on me as a child. It was his bowling which impreseed me so much. By 2003 world cup he grew as a fast bowler. He was swinging the ball both ways & he was also reverse swinging the ball at times. So my liking for him grew into an adulation. That was a glorious phase for team India. Just when Zaheer Khan was about to become one of the greats in the game there was arrival of Greg Chappell in Indian cricket. He divided the Indian team into various parts and tried to destroy Indian cricket from its root. Lot of players became victim of his mind games and Zaheer Khan was one of them. He was dropped from Indian team during that but he made a strong comeback in 2007 and after that he never looked back.
Zaheer went on to become one of the greats in the game. In 2009 India became no. 1 test side in the world & Zaheer Khan was the spearhead of Indian bowling attack at that time. In 2011 world cup which India won Zaheer was Dhoni’s go to man. Whenever Dhoni wanted to break a partnership he gave ball to Zaheer & Zaheer never disappointed him. Inswing, outswing or reverse swing Zaheer knew how to use them and when. The kind of zip he had in his bowling none of the current Indian bowlers have that zip. Zaheer was a nightmare for left handers. Graeme Smith knows it the best. Zaheer always troubled him with his swing. Graeme Smith was dismissed13 times in his career by Zaheer Khan. Even Hussey and Hayden has been the victims of his swing several times. Who can forget his spell in world cup final? Zaheer didn’t conceded a single run in first 3 overs. Tharanga had no answer to his bowling that clever bowler he was but since then he has been struggling with the injuries.
Zaheer made a comeback in this year’s IPL. He bowled well in this year’s IPL. I was hoping for his comeback in Indian side soon but couple of days back I saw a tweet saying that Zaheer Khan is going to announce his retirement today. I was in shock after seeing that tweet. I was thinking that news channel must be joking or something. Couple of hours later Zaheer himself posted letter of his retirement on twitter. I was not able to believe it until I completely read that letter. Indian team has not found his replacement yet. There is no one in the current Indian side who I can say that he is the next spearhead of Indian fast bowling. India needed his experience in bowling department but his body doesn’t permit him to bowl & that’s the life of a fast bowler. Zaheer Khan certainly is the best fast bowler India has ever produced. Thank You Zaheer for teaching me what fast bowling is. Thank you Zaheer for giving us the moments to celebrate. You will always be missed.