However he worked his way into the Team India with an amazing 76-wicket haul for Worcesters in county cricket. He was drafted into South Africa-bound India squad in Dec 2006 after a 10-month lay-off.
Zaheer sticked to an off-stump line and hardly erred in length and reaped rich harvests during SA Safari. Graeme Smith was his bunny in the Tests. Zaheer bowled India to their first ever Test win on South African soil. And continued his good work in the subsequent series.
On seaming wickets in England, bowling round the wicket, he tormented right-handed batsmen with away swingers and nipping in deliveries. He returned with the match figures of 9/139 at the Trent Bridge where India registered a creditable 7-wicket win. He plucked 18 wickets in that three-Test series at 23 apiece.
His performance in England prompted the English media to equate him with Sultan of swing Wasim Akram. Not fair enough but however Zaheer has improved by leaps and bounds and is a more potent bowler now with increased pace, variations, movements away and in, toe crushing yorkers and a tidy line and length and certainly has in him to join Wasim league.
Former Pak pacer Aaqib Javed, a man not known for undue exaggerations, even goes to the extent of saying: "He reminds me of Wasim these days." Zaheer didn't quite resemble Akram when as a 21-year-old he burst on the international scene at the 2001 ICC Champions Trophy at Kenya.
The long run-up, the high jump, the will to break speed barriers and shatter stumps with toe-crushing yorkers meant he was more Waqar than Wasim. At 29, one agrees with Aaqib, he is more Wasim than Waqar. Zaheer these days has shortened his run-up, reduced the jump, started going round the wicket, uses the crease, uses the slower ball and the results are their to see. Rightfully so he has taken 43 wickets from 9 Tests at an staggering average 23.86 - a feat unmatched by any international bowler this year.