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Zaheer is a much improved bowler
Krishnamachari Srikkanth - 17 September 2002

Let me start by saying it was a great match between Zimbabwe and India that we witnessed at the Premadasa Stadium. I give all credit to Mohammad Kaif for the innings he played. It was an amazing knock from the youngster. It seems like he relishes playing under pressure and every captain likes to have a cricketer like that in his team. Mind you, this is not the first time he is winning a match for India. Even when wickets fall, he keeps a cool head and goes about picking off runs regularly. He never seems to get flustered in any situation and that is a major plus.

The young man has perfected the art of converting the ones into twos and the twos into threes. This gives him a great advantage as he can then pick off the boundaries when the loose balls come along. The way he runs makes sure that the batsmen at the other end are kept on their toes.

Zaheer Khan
Having said this, it would be unfair to forget the role that Virender Sehwag played early on in the day. His dashing knock where he scored 48 off just 36 balls made sure that India got off to a flying start. That was very important as it made sure that the team was not under pressure even when wickets fell at regular intervals.

Then there was Rahul Dravid, who I thought played his role to perfection. As the senior cricketer, Dravid farmed the strike superbly and nurtured Kaif at the other end. Had one more wicket fallen quickly after India were reduced to 87/5, things would have been very different. The bowlers would have had a crack at the tail and this could have turned things in Zimbabwe's favour. Despite preserving his wicket, Dravid never let the run rate drop and was severe on the loose balls. The way he paced his innings was a lesson to young cricketers.

While praising the contributions of these three batsmen, let me make it clear that the rest of the top order could not to be criticised for their dismissals. It was not as though they got out to rash shots. The bowling was in the right place most of the time and Douglas Hondo especially was very effective with his line just outside the off stump.

Even after Kaif got his career-best score of 111 not out, and India reached 288, the match was not sealed. Zimbabwe are a very good one-day side and they showed that. To start with, I thought the Indian bowling did a fine job. Zaheer Khan was especially effective. He is a much improved bowler and shows the aggression that is required for a fast bowler.

Where India could have improved is the way in which the middle overs were handled. I thought Sourav Ganguly should have tried Virender Sehwag at some point during the course of the Zimbabwe innings. His sort of bowling is ideally suited to the conditions here and we all know he can get you breakthroughs.

Last but not the least, we should spare a thought for Any Flower. I thought his was an outstanding effort, apart from also being a brilliant knock. After being on the field for three hours in the heat and humidity, he came out and batted with heart. He showed true character in his knock of 145.

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Other Articles by Krish Srikkanth