India survived a scare before registering a 23-run over minnows Afghanistan on Wednesday night at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. A spirited Afghan side also pulled off a major upset but spinners did the job for captain MS Dhoni and he ended on the winning side.
Zaheer has not been in the best of form since the Twenty20 International against New Zealand in Chennai. In his last four T20 matches, including the one against Afghanistan, he has managed two wickets and in two games he did not complete his full quota of four overs.
His figures against New Zealand were 1/27 in four overs and he followed that with 1/29 off four against Sri Lanka in the warm-up game.
Against Pakistan, he was hit for 31 runs off 3 overs without a wicket. On Wednesday night, Afghanistan batsmen too were at ease as they took 32 runs off Zaheer's three overs.
In four games, he has bowled a total of 14 overs and has take two wickets for 119 runs.
This is definitely not good signs for India if they have to win the T20 World title again. And their plan of going in with four bowlers and seven batsmen needs a rethink.
Former Pakistan bowling great Wasim Akram felt Zaheer was not 100 percent fit.
"Zaheer's fitness looked suspect. He did not look sharp enough and probably his energy levels were not up to the mark. I know Sri Lankan conditions are extremely demanding, but if Zaheer has to lead India's attack, he has to be at the peak of his fitness. Dhoni's selection worries, I would imagine, will be around his senior players like Zaheer, Harbhajan and Irfan Pathan," Akram told ESPNStar.com.
For India's chances to brighten in Sri Lanka, Zaheer has to fire. If his form continues to dip, he might have to be replaced with Ashok Dinda, who is part of the 15-man squad.
India's next test comes against England on Sunday. And bigger tests await them in the Super Eight stage.
It is time for Zaheer and rest of the bowling unit to pull up their socks. Or else they can kiss goodbye to claiming the trophy for a second time.