T20 is very intense: Zak

RCB’s pace superstar on IPL, Vettori, Kohli and more

Jaipur 23 April 2012
He may not have the raw pace of Dale Steyn or the ability to extract bounce like Morne Morkel, but Zaheer Khan has trapped batsmen across the world with his ability to decode a situation. The left-arm paceman has mastered the art of controlling the ball and extracting swing with years of hard work and application.

Whether as India’s lead bowler or bowling spearhead of his IPL team, Zaheer Khan has been instrumental in grooming youngsters and shaping victories. An important cog in the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s bowling line-up, the formidable bowler spoke to about bowling in the T20 format and how teams have evolved over IPL’s five seasons.

RCB has one of the stronger bowling line-ups with Daniel Vettori, Dirk Nannes, M Muralitharan and you in the team. How do you all complement each other?

Depending on the wicket, we play the required combination. As far as bowling is concerned, in this format of the game it is very important to pick wickets at any stage. In T20, the way the batters are coming after the bowlers, [it is only] if you pick up wickets that you can restrict your opponents from scoring at a good rate. That’s what we always look to do.

How do you and Daniel Vettori work with the youngsters in the unit?

Dan has kind of put the responsibility on me in terms of communicating with, and guiding, the young Indian fast bowlers [...]. We have set plans for set batters and that’s the way we go about it in matches. Knowing Dan’s leadership, it’s very important that he takes the responsibility to bowl at certain batters first up if they are not comfortable against spin.

Do you agree with the perception that bowlers can cope better in the shortest format?

Its different – that’s the way I look at it. You prepare differently for T20 games. In terms of bowling, the workload is less, but in terms of intensity it’s probably on the higher side because you have to be there right from ball one. You have to really warm up well and get into the aggressive mode as quickly as possible.

How, do you think, has T20 cricket impacted bowling in general?

You see lots of variations [in bowling]. As a bowler you have 24 deliveries to bowl but the importance of each delivery increases depending on what stage of the game you are bowling at; your variations also become crucial [in this format]. Picking up early wickets becomes even more important because of the Powerplay [as] the batters are coming at you; if you can get early wickets, it definitely restricts the opponents. The basics remain the same. As I said earlier, in terms of preparation and awareness, and in terms of knowing exactly what situation of the game is, and how the batters are going to react to it or what they are actually thinking, it is different.

What are your thoughts on AB de Villiers, the finisher?

We have had a bit of a slow start but everything is falling into place. It’s a long tournament so it is important that we peak at the right time. That’s how everyone is approaching the matches [...] It’s good to see AB finishing off matches in style. He is a great batsman; he has plenty of time when he is batting. The kind of shots he is playing, it is just amazing to watch the way he has been improvising and playing those reverse sweeps to fast bowlers and hitting them for six. It is not something that you see normally, but that’s the beauty of T20 cricket and that’s the way it is going. You are seeing a lot of innovative shots and that’s the way it is headed.

Your thoughts on Virat Kohli, the leader?

He is a great lad; he has a tremendous temperament. The way he prepares for a game, the hunger to do well is very visible. He is a quick learner. He is flourishing with the new responsibilities; he’s taking [the added responsibilities] well, which is a great sign considering he is just 23 years old. He has achieved quite a lot and I hope he continues the same way [and makes the] same [kind of] progress in the years to come.

What do you make of IPL’s evolution over the last five years?

This is the fifth year of IPL and you are already seeing that a lot of teams have improved. More importance is being given to fielding. You are seeing different innovative shots [being played]. Teams prepare differently. They more or less know how the season is going to [pan out and] how they should be preparing for games in terms of [team] combination and in terms of knowing exactly what they want for the team. They have a better understanding of these [aspects about the opposition] and of their own team.
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