Zaheer Khan on saliva ban and how athletes can combat COVID crisis

Former India pacer Zaheer Khan reckons the ban on the usage of saliva by bowlers will severely affect bowlers and tilt the scales in favour of batsmen.


Former India pacer Zaheer Khan feels the ban on the usage of saliva by bowlers will make it difficult for them to swing the ball.   -  M. Karunakaran

Former India pacer Zaheer Khan felt the ban on the usage of saliva by bowlers, recommended  by the ICC Cricket Committee, will massively tilt the scales in favour of batsmen.

Speaking in a webinar moderated by former Indian Premier League COO Sundar Raman on Sunday, Zaheer said, "It is going to be very hard for bowlers to swing the ball. If you are going to disinfect the ball every time, at least they should keep a solution with the umpires, which the bowlers can use officially and get some sort of practice going. Otherwise, it is heavily in favour of the batsmen."

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The coronavirus pandemic has brought forth challenging times and Zaheer believes that "mental adjustment" will play a huge role now. "An active sportsperson will find it very tough during this time. It is definitely going to be very challenging... the adjusting. I think the real focus for every athlete during this time would be to do the adjustment mentally. It is going to play a huge role."

When asked what can a sportsperson do to keep oneself going during this phase, Zaheer, who is the Director of Cricket Operations at Mumbai Indians, compared the prevalent situation to a rain-delayed Test match.

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He said, "In all our careers we had these rain-affected Test games and it went on for five days. The situation right now is similar. Only maybe the situation would extend for a year right now... you never know. The situation has affected our routines, our times and like in rain-affected games we have a different mindset now.

"There the umpires go out and inspect the field and here you have government officials who we are depending upon to chart out a course. As a sportsperson, you cannot really switch off and have to adapt to a new plan. Yes, there was a certain rhythm going but you have to build your strategy around the new plan. That is going to be the key."

He added, "It will be about how you can find comfort in the new normal. We can only control the controllables. Once you accept those challenges, things will be a bit smoother. Initially, there will be a bit of struggle because no one knows what's coming their way. No one knows the difficulties you will face in adapting to these challenges. It will be a trial-and-error which will get better with time."

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With a cloud of uncertainty over major tournaments like the T20 World Cup and IPL and the postponement of events like the Olympics, the 41-year-old Zaheer said, "When it comes to major tournaments like the Olympics, which comes once in four years and the World Cup which has a similar case, as an athlete, you always peak during the time. So now you have to readjust and be in pristine shape physically and mentally whenever the time comes.

"Your whole routine and practice should be building towards that. But, now you may not know when the tournaments will happen. So, that is something you will have to be flexible with. You have to go back to the drawing board and find new goals."

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Zaheer, who has 282 ODI scalps from 200 ODIs, said the manner in which he bounced back in the 2011 World Cup final was his favourite cricketing memory. "In 2003 (World Cup), I was close to making an impact but that didn't happen. It was a young Zak running in, losing his way, letting his emotions get to him and not really doing what was needed to be done. How many do get the opportunity to get over this nightmare? In 2011, I got the opportunity. I bowled three maidens and then took two wickets. That set the tone for the match."

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