New Delhi: India may have lost the title round to New Zealand in the recent ICC (International Cricket Council) Knock Out tournament, but the team gained a lot from the Kenyan safari.
So, let us not rue the minuses, for a change, savour the gains and look ahead to the Sharjah triangular tournament, starting from Friday.
Besides India, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe are the other contesting teams. The finds of the ICC tournament, without dispute, were Yuvraj Singh, the gum-chewing left-handed all-rounder from Chandigarh, and 22-year-old Zaheer Khan, the Baroda speedster whom Mumbai did not find worthy of a place in their Ranji team a couple of years ago.
Both youngsters have lots of skill, promise and the required enthusiasm to become successful practitioners of the gentleman's game. Of course, it is early days yet to guarantee a place for them in cricket's hall of fame, but if the two refuse to be distracted by the worldly attractions, they will surely go places.
This has been the impression of all and sundry.Their Nairobi show was enough to draw praise from the game's well-known commentators and former players. Some of them, like former Somerset captainPeter Roebuck, even feel that Khan's performance, especially against Australia in the quarter-final on October 7 (it was also his birthday), was more surprising than Singh's.
"If anything, Zaheer was even more impressive. He exploded on the scene," Roebuck wrote in his column in the 'Sydney Morning Herald', comparing the two youngsters. "India has not produced many fast bowlers, especially since partition.
Kapil Dev and Javagal Srinath have carried the pace attack in recent years. Srinath is a mild fellow... Zaheer is much more aggressive, and sent bumpers flying past the Waugh brothers."Zaheer bowled fast and swung the ball back into the right-handers. It is not a bad combination. If he keeps his head, he will be around for a long time," concluded Roebuck, who once shared the Somerset dressing room with Sunil Gavaskar in Taunton.
Richie Benaud, a former Australia captain a revered pundit of the game, while complimenting India's latest finds, wrote in his column, "The other young player (apart from Singh) who interested me was Zaheer Khan, who has a good action and appeared to me to be a yard or two faster than he actually looks on the (TV) screen, or to the batsman."Not only foreigners, but Indian experts have also realised the 22-year-old's potential now.
Former Test player Sudhir Naik, who first saw Khan in action in Mumbai and was impressed with his bowling, said that he always held the promise in him to become a class bowler.Khan, in fact, played for Naik's National Cricket Club (NCC), and later represented Mumbai's under-19 team. However, the selectors, for some inexplicable reason, failed to see his potential and ignored him for the Ranji Trophy.Naik then suggested that he join the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai to sharpen his skills, and try to represent some other state/ association.
Khan spent three years at India's premier pace bowling school and learnt the nuances of fast bowling from Australian Dennis Lillee and resident coach T A Sekhar, a former India bowler.