Zaheer Khan still retains the fire

"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," says former India fast bowler Zaheer Khan.

Zaheer Khan's performance as a bowler and captain in the ongoing IPL has been hailed by everyone.

Zaheer Khan is reviving the tactical acumen he had acquired over the years as an international cricketer in a format that is ideally meant for youngsters. But even at 37, the left-arm seamer 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,” observed Zaheer in a chat with Sportstar on Wednesday.

Zaheer is being hailed as the ‘super captain’, but he does not think so. “I am not. I am doing what I did in Tests and one-dayers. Some field placements 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 Delhi Daredevils, a team that has emerged as a serious title contender.

The pressures he had handled in the international arena have helped Zaheer take up the challenges in the IPL this year. He is a skipper who 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 intensity is less in T20 because I have to bowl only four overs. In Tests, I used to bowl 18 overs a day. I feel T20 is less strenuous but the travelling is very hectic,” said Zaheer.

The game, according to 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 then take the plunge,” Zaheer remarked

Twenty20 cricket is hard for the bowlers; it always was. “The assessment by analysts makes it tough. You have to create the wicket-taking opportunity, create the angles, bowl to 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,” he explained.

What has struck Zaheer the most in this edition apart from the fact that Delhi Daredevils has done exceedingly well?

“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,” he said.

Zaheer’s performance as a bowler and captain has been hailed by everyone. “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 said.

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