Posted On Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 07:54:33 AM
Inore: “First-class cricket after playing for India can be quite depressing. To keep playing Ranji Trophy in hope that one day I might get a chance was too frightening a prospect.” That was Sanjay Manjrekar telling Mirror why he quit cricket completely after he was dropped from the Indian side.
However, Zaheer Khan refuses to fade away without a fight. When you are, as he was, dropped unceremoniously during a middle of a series, you might be forgiven if you throw in a big sulk and chose to give it all up.
Instead, he has opted to fight his way back through domestic cricket. The selectors haven’t clarified if it’s the end of Zaheer for them but his sacking seems to indicate that.
He is getting old, his body has not allowed him to perform at his optimum in the recent times, and he was almost living on pure skill for a while. But 2012 hasn’t been kind on him. In this year, he took 15 wickets in eight Tests in 2012 at a strike rate of 98 balls per wicket.
In the series against England, he got just four wickets at a strike rate of 133. Prior to that, he played for Mumbai in the Ranji opener against Railways where he limped out after taking one wicket in 20.5 overs.
Clearly, he is waging a losing battle against his body but now he has made it clearer that he is in no mood to throw in the towel. It’s not going to be easy but at least he has been there and done that. In 2007, when he was dropped from the national team, he went to county cricket and reinvented himself.
But age was on his side then. Now, he has only his desire to not limp out of the national reckoning in a tame way. He begins his journey in Holkar in Mumbai’s game against Madhya Pradesh and he will at least won’t have to fight the pitch.
The wicket is wearing a green tinge and that’s something Zaheer can exploit. One reason for MP leaving this greenish tinge is that most of their successes has come about thanks to the brilliant bowling of their own medium pacers.
Ishwar Chand Pandey and Anand Rajan have been at their best taking 34 and 29 wickets respectively. Captain Devendra Bundela has been inspirational and scored centuries in both innings against Punjab in the previous game in Gwalior.
So, MP playing to their own strengths has at least offered an opening for Zaheer to strike. Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni insisted Zaheer is fit and is very keen to put up a good show against MP.
“He’s very excited about the game against MP and is focused on doing well in this important match,” said Kulkarni. “His experience will certainly help our boys and if he gets going, I think we can win the game,” he added. Mumbai will hope that their coach’s trust in Zaheer comes off for they are on verge of not making into the knockouts.
Unlike Rajasthan and Hyderabad, the two others sides in their group who haven’t won an outright win, Mumbai have managed four firstinnings leads and it’s thanks to these results that they are still holding on to their modest chances as the competition enters its business end.
But at the start of the season, few would have predicted that 39-time champions Mumbai would find it difficult to advance to the knock-out round, but that’s what sport’s all about.
Nothing short of six points is the need of the hour, but they run into a side that’s on a hot streak after beating Punjab, a team that’s been in fabulous form this time- .What’s more, Mumbai enter the game without two of their best batsmen – Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane Dhawal Kulkarni who has been erratic has been ruled out with a shin injury and this setback ensures Javed Khan, the medium pacer who was impressive against Saurashtra will hold his place.
On the batting front, the flamboyant Suryakumar Yadav replaces Sharma while Kaustubh Pawar will take his place at the top of the batting order in the company of Wasim Jaffer.
This means, wicket keeper Aditya Tare who scored a double century against Saurashtra will have to move down in the batting order and display his versatility once again.
It’s somewhat apt that both Mumbai and Zaheer are at crossroads this season. The team is not used to not playing in knockouts and Zaheer is not used to being dumped like this. A lot of pride is at stake for both.