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The rise, fall and rise again of Zaheer Khan

August 1, 2007

Prem Panicker

Most cricketers are defined, their achievements measured, by their talents.

Zaheer Khan is one of the very, very few examples of players defined by their moods. And that, perhaps, is why fans have, through his six-year-long career with the national side, held their breath in anticipation as he marks out his run-up and prepares for his first ball of the match: they never know whether it is the good Zaheer, or the bad Zaheer, that will turn up on any particular day.

Worse, they don't know -- even his own team-mates cannot figure out -- the factors that determine his quality on any given day. For no visible reason, he could lose the plot horrendously (think back to the 2003 World Cup final when he lost his line, his length and his head, and allowed Adam Gilchrist to power Australia's innings to a fabulous start).

By the same token, he can for the most trivial of reasons discover his cutting edge, and turn into an unplayable bowler capable of getting the best in the business to break into a sweat. Think of the yorker with which he took out Steve Waugh, and announced himself on the international stage, during the ICC Knockout of 2000 in Kenya. Or think, most recently, of the way he bowled to England skipper Michael Vaughan in the second innings of the second Test at Trent Bridge: Vaughan, so assured against the other members of the Indian attack, was reduced to a clueless novice against 'Zak'.

And then think of this: all it took was a few jelly beans.

Image: Zaheer Khan celebrates Michael Vaughan's wicket on day four of the second Test at Trent Bridge.

  • India in the United Kingdom 2007

    Photographs: Getty Images


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