Bengaluru Test: Confident Zahir awaits chance to spin a web

Zahir Khan, a left-arm chinaman bowler, has been a regular member of Afghanistan’s four-day side and could well be handy in its historic Test.

Zahir Khan spent considerable time in the nets ahead of Afghanistan’s Test bow against India.   -  PTI

As Afghanistan gears up for its Test bow against India at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday, much of the spotlight has been on its spin sensation Rashid Khan.

Away from the limelight, though, another 19-year-old, Zahir Khan, is slowly mastering his craft. Coming back from an injury, Zahir has made it a point to spend considerable time in the nets to ensure he is well prepared for the challenge.

Zahir is one of the few players in the side who have a fair experience of featuring in four-day tournaments. Having been with the Afghanistan side for a while, Zahir has been a regular member of the four-day side and he could well be handy in the historic Test.

Unknown quantity

A chinaman bowler, Zahir was picked by Rajasthan Royals for the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year on the recommendation of Australian spin legend, Shane Warne. But a freak injury during a training session forced him to miss the tournament. And after a couple of month’s rehabilitation at the CSS-Whatmore Centre for Cricket at Sri Ramachandra Medical College (SRMC) in Chennai, the young gun looks confident.

Read: 'Excited' Afghanistan gears up for India challenge

Unlike Rashid and Mujeeb Zadran, he is untested, a fact that could be advantageous for Zahir. And perhaps that’s why, Afghanistan coach, Phil Simmons, ensured that he is given enough attention at the nets. As Zahir and Mujeeb trained at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) on Tuesday, Simmons kept a close eye on their performances.

While speaking to Sportstar a few weeks before the match, Zahir had admitted that he shared a great rapport with Rashid and that helped him do well in the longer format. “We are very good friends. In four-day games, sometime he would take eight wickets, while I would grab seven. It is fun, playing alongside him,” Zahir had said.

Lucky turn

From being a member of the U-19 side, Zahir has made it to the longer format quite suddenly. After being promoted to Grade A cricket, Zahir’s moment of success had come surprisingly. Some three years ago, the national team played a four-day match against Papua New Guinea and Zahir was not in the initial squad. “But even then, I travelled with the team and played the game. Actually what happened was, Rashid’s visa had not come, whereas, my visa was ready. So, I was called-up by the team management. [At] that time Inzamam-ul-Haq was our coach. As I reached, captain Asghar Stanikzai encouraged me and said that I will be in the final eleven. It was tough initially, but in the post-lunch session, I took seven wickets,” Zahir had said.

Since then, he has been participated in almost all the four-day games that Afghanistan has played. This time, Zahir would be hoping to find himself in the final eleven in a Test.