Zaheer out to make Smith’s life hell

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iol spt dec13 Zaheer

Independent Newspapers

Much has been made of Zaheer Khans success against Proteas captain Graeme Smith. Picture: Leon Lestrade

Johannesburg – Zaheer Khan momentarily considered the question concerning the looming resumption of his dominance of Graeme Smith before providing a cheeky reply: “I think I just have to turn up.”

South Africa’s Test captain has had some major problems against the Indian left-arm swing bowler, who has dismissed him six times in nine Tests. Only New Zealand’s Chris Martin, who’s picked up Smith’s wicket nine times, has been more successful against Smith.

What it is about Zaheer in particularly that bugs Smith is hard to decipher. Certainly if Smith knew he’d have solved the problem by now.

“Graeme Smith has a terrific record in Test matches, he’s a good leader, but for me it’s good to have that advantage, that edge, over someone who has been a good opener and been scoring consistently at the highest level,” Zaheer said.

Smith’s explained Zaheer’s dominance away by saying that the leader of India’s attack has troubled several great batsmen of the modern era.

Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakarra and former England captain Andrew Strauss are among those to also be dismissed six times by Zaheer, while Australia’s Matthew Hayden was Zaheer’s favourite wicket, numbering seven of his 295 Test victims. In six Tests in South Africa, Zaheer has picked up 23 wickets, and he stressed the importance of bowlers not getting carried away with the pace and bounce of South Africa’s pitches.

“For seam bowlers it’s important to get the ball in the right areas. These are hit the decks kind of wickets, so that’s the adjustment to make as a bowler.”

Zaheer versus Smith will be among a number of intriguing battles the two Tests between South Africa and India will showcase.

Far from looking like they were scarred from their ODI mauling at the hands of South Africa Zaheer, Ravichandaran Ashwin, Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay cut a confident group at an open day for the Indian side yesterday.

“Everyone is ready for a fight, you have to be, no matter what happens,” said Ashwin. “What the ODI series has done, is get everyone in the right frame of mind, prepared for what we will get.”

India have reflected that desire to fight by picking five fast bowlers in their squad for the two Tests. Zaheer is almost certain to lead that attack at the Wanderers next week, not just because of the stranglehold he has over Smith, but mainly because he’s the most experienced of the Indian bowlers.

“We have a talented bunch of boys around. It’s about having that belief, the belief to take 20 wickets because that’s what it will take to win a Test,” said the 35-year-old, who is a veteran of 88 Tests.

India will face an SA Invitation XI in a two-day game starting in Benoni this morning, as part of their preparation for the two Tests.

SQUADS

India: MS Dhoni (capt), M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ambati Rayudu, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha

SA Invitation XI: Stephen Cook (capt), Temba Bavuma, Corne Dry, Simon Harmer, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Eddie Leie, Dane Paterson, Rilee Rossouw, Yaseen Vallie, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas, Hardus Viljoen.


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