Zaheer Khan is reliving his tactical acumen acquired over a period of time as an international cricketer. Fifteen years of intense combat on the field have given him the platform to explore and experiment in a format that is ideally meant for the young. But even at 37, Zaheer can beat them hands down.
“I am doing what I have been doing all these years. Just giving shape to plans and tactics that have the support of Rahul Dravid. The focus is on doing the basics right. It sounds easy, but is tough to achieve. You have to go with the game and take instant decisions on the field. If you succeed, you become a leader. If not, there are brickbats,” Zaheer observed in a chat with The Hindu on Wednesday.
He is being hailed as a super captain. “I am not. I am doing what I did in Tests and one-dayers. Some field placings come across as unorthodox, but they depend on the comfort level of the bowler. We may have plans but they have to be executed too. I am actually lucky to have the bowling attack that is able to execute the plans. That has been the key for the team,” stressed the captain of the Delhi Daredevils, a team that has emerged a serious title contender.
The pressure of having played international cricket has helped Zaheer absorb the challenges in the IPL this year as he takes on the responsibility and leads from the front. “I enjoy being out there. T20 format is ideal for people like me. The dynamics of high pressure have always appealed to me and I have thrived when faced with tough situations. The match intensity is less in T20 because I have to bowl four overs. In Tests, it is 18 overs a day. I feel T20 is less strenuous but the travelling is very hectic. In terms of workload, it is chalk and cheese.”
The game, insists Zaheer, has evolved a lot because of T20. “Everyone is pushing the limits and looking to change the tempo of the game. You obviously grow with experience. Look at the game itself. The acrobatic skills of fielders on the boundary are amazing. Batters are practising ramp shots. Bowlers are looking to innovate with every ball. It is exciting. As for me, I avoid thinking about the game. Just watch my good deliveries before a match and take the plunge.”
It is hard for the bowlers. It always was. “The assessment by analysts makes it tough. You have to create the wicket-taki ng opportunity, create the angles, bowl the conducive lengths, look to reverse, watch the feet movement of the batsman, make the best of the new and old ball, not relenting one moment. And then the joy of taking a wicket makes it a fascinating experience.”
What has struck Zaheer the most in this edition, apart from the fact that DD has done exceedingly well, is the awareness of opponents’ plans. “It is the fact that teams have been more aware of the plans of the opponents. They are aware of the roles played by different players. It adds to the intrigue.”
His performances as a bowler and captain have been hailed by one and all. “I am glad I have not been a burden. I left international cricket when I knew there was still cricket left in me. It was very hard to say goodbye. Looking back, it was the right thing to do. I retain the fire.” He has passed on the fire to his mates who are well placed to conquer the IPL summit this time.