Zaheer Khan’s ability to inspire young fast bowlers across age groups remains as fascinating as ever. The Delhi Daredevils skipper, who used to give tips to the likes of S. Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma, is now a mentor to the next generation of fast bowlers in the Delhi side. Zaheer’s contribution went well beyond the one wicket that he took for the Daredevlis in their win over the Kings X1 Punjab at Kotla on Friday. He has assumed the role of a mentor for the three young left fast bowling trio of Pawan Suyal, Khaleel Ahmed and Chama Milind.
That Zaheer has a vast knowledge on the intricacies of the swing bowling was first acknowleged by former India batsman V.V.S. Laxman, who is a member of BCCI’s high-powered Cricket Advisory Committee. “I think because of Zaheer’s vast knowledge and experience and more importantly his communication skills, he will prove to be an excellent bowling coach, who can help in the development of young fast bowlers. His reading of the game is probably one of the best I have seen. I am sure that he will contribute immensely in the growth of fast bowlers in the country,” Laxman said.
Laxman further said that towards the end of his bowling career with Team India, Zaheer was a mentor to the upcoming bowlers. “I would say that a lot wickets which other fast bowlers have taken, Zaheer has to be credited. He was fantastic with young fast bowlers,” Laxman said.
“I would like to congratulate Zaheer for his outstanding career. For me his greatness was not only that he was skillful but he had the ability to plan a dismissal. His greatness lay in the fact that he became a world class performer despite not having great facilities at the start of his career,” said Laxman.
Cut to the present. Zaheer Khan in his new role as captain of a struggling Delhi Daredevils team is standing and having a long discussion with Suyal, Ahmed and Milind. Interestingly, these three hail from Pauri Garhwal, Tonk and Hyderabad respectively.
On his part the 26-year-old Suyal felt that Zaheer has helped him gain control. “He taught me the importance of having control—such an important factor. Initially I was trying to bowl very fast. But then it was Zaheer sir who impressed upon me the need to have a good line and length rather than spray the ball all over in an attempt to bowl quick. I feel I am a much better bowler now thanks to his advice,” said Suyal.
For the 21-year-old Milind, who was called Zaheer Khan in his village near Hyderabad, it was the finer point of swing bowling that he got to learn from his mentor. “I used to have the outswinger working for me, I wanted to develop the inswinger. This is where Zaheer helped me. To perfect a inswinger its all about the right wrist position—something which he used to excel in. Also he gave me a couple of tips on how to change the wrist position so to effect a good inswinger. He has been of great help to me,” said Milind.
As for Khalil, a member of India’s under-19 World Cup, he relishes the prospect of getting tips from Zaheer. "Everytime I have a problem with my bowling, I just go up to him and tell him. He has a solution to my problems always. Its really unbelievable—the sort of knowledge he has on each and every aspect of bowling. I think I could not have asked for a better person to mentor me,” he added.