New Delhi: Rahul Dravid feels it is time for Zaheer Khan to start deliberating on his future as it would be difficult for the senior pacer to survive the rigours of five Test matches when India tour England later this year.
Zaheer, who made a comeback to the Test team being part of the disastrous tours of South Africa and New Zealand after a long injury lay-off, failed to trouble the batsmen. Although he bowled 51 overs and took a five-wicket haul in the second innings of the Wellington Test against New Zealand recently, he still looked far from impressive. “Can he survive five Test matches in England? I am not so sure,” Dravid was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
“I think it is a question he deeply needs to ask himself. He doesn’t want to end up being someone who struggles his way through to the end. It can be really hard. And we have seen that he struggled to back up time and again in these two series. “So, that’s an issue he needs to consider, as also do the Indian selectors,” he said.
With 311 wickets in 92 Tests, Zaheer is the second most successful India pacer after Kapil Dev. But his career has been plagued by injuries. Dravid said he would hate to see Zaheer end his career on a low. “He has been a great bowler for India, arguably the finest India fast bowler since Kapil Dev. I would hate to see Zaheer Khan end his career bowling at 120-125 kph and limp off from international cricket.
“He has done a great job to get himself fit for these two series and to be fair, he has bowled well in patches… He has bowled consistently,” said Dravid.
Talking about Indian spinners, Dravid said they had struggled in the past also in overseas conditions. But people need to be patient with them. “We will need to show some patience with our spinners, whether it is Ravichandran Ashwin or (Ravindra) Jadeja. It’s early days for both in international cricket,” he said.
“We have seen some greats of Indian cricket, including Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, take a long time to get used to bowling with a Kookaburra ball in overseas conditions.
“I thought we were a little bit impatient with Ashwin. We haven’t given him as much a run as I would like. So, I think there is an opportunity for him to get back into the side and play a few more games. He will only learn if he play more games,” insisted the former India captain.
On the other hand, Wasim Akram feels Zaheer can still come in handy as a mentor to young pacers in the side even if he is unable to contribute with his bowling. “It is very rare that you make a comeback having played 90 Tests. So, it is not just your bowling, but also your reputation at stake,” Akram commented.
“But in the time left before he finally retires, Zaheer still has the opportunity to contribute a lot. Like Imran (Khan) did with myself and Waqar (Younis), Zaheer can stand at mid-on and mid-off and teach other bowlers skills like reverse swing, have a word with the young fast bowlers when things are not going well.”
Akram recalled the time when he used to look up to Imran Khan for advice. “Talking about and explaining fast bowling is an art. Just because one is a fast bowler does not always mean he can teach others easily. “So, the more Zaheer talks to others, he will learn and teach more. I used to just ask Imran what I should do for the first three years. And that is how I learned.”
According to Akram, Zaheer could have been the ideal man to bail Ishant Sharma out when the latter was being taken to cleaners during New Zealand’s innings at the recently concluded Wellington Test.