Zaheer Khan, one of India’s most successful and beloved fast bowlers, celebrates his 43rd birthday on Thursday.
Zaheer is widely regarded as the ‘Indian King of Reverse Swing’ and was an integral part of many iconic victories for India including the historic World Cup 2011 triumph. The left-arm pacer was the highest wicket-taker for the Indian team in the 2003 and 2011 World Cup.
The Arjuna awardee has picked up 282 ODI wickets in his career and has an outstanding average of 29.44, while in the longest format he is just behind legendary Kapil Dev in the list of most wickets in Test cricket for India with 311 under his belt.
Zaheer made his ODI debut in 2000 against Kenya and since then he became an integral part of every former Indian captain’s plan, be it Sourav Ganguly or MS Dhoni.
As the veteran pacer celebrates his 43rd birthday, we take a look at his top five bowling spells…
ICC Champions Trophy 2000 vs Australia: On this day, 21 years back, 22-year-old Zaheer announced his arrival when he yorked Australian captain Steve Waugh, beating him for pace in the first quarterfinal tie in Nairobi. With Australia needing 46 off 32 with three wickets in hand and a well-set Waugh at the crease, the game looked poised but Zaheer got his line accurate to get rid of the skipper who made room and failed to connect with the ball. Zaheer finished with 2 for 40, the other being the dismissal of Adam Gilchrist, as he left his imprint on the big stage.
Consecutive five-wicket hauls in New Zealand: Rahul Dravid’s 76 dragged India to a paltry 161 in the opening Test in Wellington against New Zealand in 2002. But the bowlers, inspired by Zaheer, allowed India to recover from their poor first innings show as the pacer picked five wickets for 53 runs as the hosts escaped with just an 86-run lead. A week later, it was Zaheer once again who helped India revive with yet another five-wicket haul after India were bundled out for 99 in the first innings in Hamilton.
2003 World Cup vs New Zealand: They had seen plenty of Zaheer in New Zealand, who picked 11 wickets in the two-Test series. But the Blackcaps had no answer for the left-arm pacer as he picked four wickets for just 42 runs to help India book their place in the semis. He dismissed opener Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle in the opening over after India elected to bowl. He then removed Brendon McCullum for his 100th wicket in the ODI format before returning for his final spell to dismiss Chris Harris.
Five-wicket haul vs England in 2007 Tests: In search of redemption, Zaheer, who struggled with fitness, injury, and form, turned to county cricket in a bid to stage an India comeback. Signing with Worcestershire, Zaheer picked 100 wickets on his debut, a first of its kind in over a century. The stint did not just earn him a return to the Indian squad, Zaheer scripted a memorable tour of England in 2007 as well as for India. His career-defining performance in Nottingham, where he picked nine wickets including a five-wicket haul helped India register a seven-wicket win. Zaheer, who was finished with 18 wickets in the three-Test series, was awarded the Man of the Series trophy.