He means business

Zaheer Khan was mostly on target except in the final match. — Pic. AP-

THE Indian pace trio hunted in a pack, and Zaheer Khan was very much in the thick of things. The left-armer got it just right... until the summit clash.

Like his senior pace partner Javagal Srinath, he strove too hard in the final, lost his line, erred in length, and was savaged by the unrelenting Australians.

However, for most part, he was lively, on target, and reaped the rewards. All the hard work at the gym where he strengthened those muscles, and hours of practise at the nets harnessing his skills, had not gone unrewarded.

Indeed, Zaheer's work ethic has been a huge factor in his steady rise over the years, as a paceman who meant business. A willingness to accept and enjoy responsibilities has seen this Baroda bowler climb the rungs.

It was no different in Southern Africa, where Zaheer gave the batsmen little respite, hardly consuming time before getting into his stride. When they missed, he was on the mark.

The delivery that Zaheer has really worked on during the past few months is the one that straightens into the right-hander. Here, a left-arm paceman has to pitch in line to win leg-before decisions.

That's the key really, and Zaheer appeared to have found it, if his World Cup display is any indication. Basically a `hit-the-deck' seam bowler, Zaheer also got the ball to move in the air, making his well-directed yorkers, even more difficult to cope with. The fact that he was running in so well, indicated the kind of rhythm he was in.

Zaheer had come to the World Cup, following a wonderful performance in New Zealand, where he revealed an ability to bowl intelligently on responsive tracks. He had also made a fine recovery from a worrying knee injury, that had kept him out of the home ODI series against the West Indies.

In the World Cup, Zaheer was fit and firing, combining exceptionally well with Javagal Srinath; the Indian new ball pair of youth and experience had the opposition on the hop; the pressure was seldom eased on the batsmen.

An attacking paceman by instinct, Zaheer went for wickets, and it was this trait that stood out in India's final Super Six encounter, against New Zealand at Centurion. The Kiwis had to win to stay afloat, however, Zaheer's opening burst left them jolted. Setbacks from which they could not recover.

Zaheer trapped dangerman Nathan Astle leg-before for nought, and finished with four for 42 off eight intense overs; he was sharp, straight, and full. The Kiwis were dismissed for a meagre 146, and this game marked Zaheer's best moment in the competition.

He proved too hot for the Kenyans in the semifinal, reflected in his figures of 9.2-2-14-3. It appeared he was peaking just in time for the biggest match of his career.

The final proved a nightmare for Zaheer though, but then every bowler is bound to have an off day at some point, and we can only sympathise with Zaheer.

He scalped 18 in the tournament at a creditable 20.77, bowling with much commitment and zeal. Zaheer does deserve his place under the World Cup sun. — S. Dinakar