Zaheer Khan: ‘NZ series crucial for Kohli and Co.’

Khan, who retired as India’s second-most capped fast bowler in Test cricket, said playing 13 Tests in a season, that too at home, can be the game-changer for any India player.

“It is very important to start the season on a good note and set the tone for the rest of the season. I wish the Indian team all luck.”   -  PTI

The Twenty20s are done with. It’s time for India players to return to Test cricket. And with the team set to play 13 Tests in less than eight months, the season could well be the defining one for Virat Kohli’s outfit. Former pace spearhead Zaheer Khan has singled out the opening assignment of the four back-to-back home series, against New Zealand from September 22, as the most crucial series.

“The most important series will be the first series when India takes on New Zealand. It will be interesting to see what kind of pitches will be on offer. It is going to be an even battle,” Khan said while addressing an august gathering as the chief guest of the Sports Journalists Association of Mumbai, Maharashtra’s golden jubilee awards function on Saturday.

“It is very important to start the season on a good note and set the tone for the rest of the season. I wish the Indian team all luck.”

Khan, who retired as India’s second-most capped fast bowler in Test cricket, said playing 13 Tests in a season, that too at home, can be the game-changer for any India player.

“It is exciting to see so many Test matches scheduled this season. This kind of season can change the whole graph of a cricketer’s career. Hope everyone prepares that way and look at it with a positive mind.”

Khan presented 17 awards to achievers from Maharashtra in various disciplines. The award winners included India Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, India regular Rohit Sharma along with Olympic 3.000m steeplechase finalist Lalita Babar and Abhilasha Mhatre, the first kabaddi player to have received the Arjuna Award.

Sharma, honoured for his record-breaking 264 in an ODI in November, 2014, said the team was moving in the right direction.

“As Zaheer said, it is going to be a long season. As a team, we are moving in the good direction. We have just come back from a successful tour of the West Indies and would like to continue from where we left there.”

Sharma, who returned to the Test side for the last two matches in the West Indies, spelt out the goal of the team. “The goal is to be (the) No. 1 in the world. We were No. 1 for a week but unfortunately the fourth Test was a washout and we lost the No. 1 rank,” he said. “We have to look one series at a time. Am sure if we do the processes right, we will get the results right.”

The soft-spoken Rahane, who is inching closer to touching the 50-run-an-innings mark in Test cricket, said “simple things that we do will take us forward” in achieving its objectives.