We’re not entirely sure what a sports lounge is – it sounds oxymoronic – but Zaheer Khan’s opened one. It’s called Toss Sports Lounge.
It’s not really selling itself is it?
The other day, Zaheer was asking people to come up with a tagline for his new venture.
We’re going with:
“Toss Sports Lounge – but come anyway.”
What’s your suggestion?
We’ll be honest, we’re struggling to know what to say about England’s win at Eden Gardens. Comparing our preview to the scorecard kind of puts things in perspective.
The current fashion seems to be to denigrate India, but that’s only half the story. The other half most revolves around Alastair Cook, but England’s bowlers contributed significantly as well.
The attack’s come a long way from the first Test and it just shows that if you’re picking four bowlers, you should select four wicket-takers. Lower order runs from Bresnan and Broad would never have made up for their bowling, while Finn and Panesar are in credit despite being wazzocks of the willow.
But there is a worry here for England. Conditions weren’t helpful, but neither Bresnan nor Broad has looked like much of a bowler of late. The former’s lost pace since an elbow operation and the brutal truth is that he may never be Test standard again. Broad just looks spent.
Maybe a rest and one of those ‘strength and conditioning programmes’ will help Broad (although with him that sounds more like a description of his hair care regime). If so, could this be the modern fast-bowling cycle: ‘Build ’em up, use ’em up, repeat’.
It might be too late to rebuild Zaheer Khan. Seam bowlers who are dropped at 34 years of age are rarely seen again. We’ve a degree of sympathy for Zaheer, however. He seems to have been bowling at a decent lick in this series so talk of his lack of fitness for once seems slightly wide of the mark.
We’re also not so sure his form’s all that bad. 1-23 and 2-59 in Ahmedabad seems respectable enough and 0-37 off 15 overs in Mumbai isn’t disgraceful when you consider that England took 19 wickets with spin in that match. 1-94 in Kolkata is pretty dire, but is it damning enough that the bin bag handles should be tied with knotty finality?
Or maybe he’s just being rested. That’s the other thing they (have to) do with fast bowlers these days.
This week, Zaheer Khan said:
“Indian bodies are not designed to bowl fast.”
Assuming that Zaheer has chosen his words carefully, this seems to indicate that he believes that humans are ‘designed’. If they are designed by God, and Sachin is God, then we can conclude that the Mumbai batsman’s blueprint is flawed or perhaps prejudiced such that he has an easier time in the nets.
Alternatively, Zaheer may be hinting that Indian cricketers are designed by scientists through manipulation of genetic code. To us, this makes more sense. If your firm had the wherewithal to create a cricketer in this manner, it would demand a decent return on its investment.
This is an age of short-form cricket, where runs are the currency, and where long one-day series and back-to-back Tests sap the influence of those who carry out the most physical role in cricket. It simply makes no financial sense to design a fast bowler. It’s too risky an investment and the rewards simply don’t justify it.
Of course, even if Zaheer’s wrong, natural selection will still mean other sorts of cricketers predominate in this cricket ecosystem.
Bert has just left a comment drawing attention to Zaheer Khan’s performance this morning, pondering whether Operation Greggs has been put into practice. Operation Greggs involves plying Zaheer with meat and tatty pies until he’s bowling at Praveen Kumar pace.
Bert is right to raise this possibility, but it is worth investigating more thoroughly and thus far, we see little evidence that Operation Greggs has had any impact.
According to Hawkeye, Zaheer’s deliveries have averaged 80-odd mph thus far and he’s even hit 88.6mph with one. This is perfectly respectable.
He’s also got 2-9 at the time of writing. We move that a different pie be introduced. The man has a weakness, we just need to identify precisely what it is.
We’re all pretty lucky, you know. For the next few weeks, we’re going to get Zaheer Khan one innings and then James Anderson the next. It’s like our metabolism has suddenly allowed us a curry-pizza-curry-pizza diet. No muesli.
What follows isn’t really meant to be a comparison. It’s more about celebrating both bowlers’ strengths. It’s not about which of them is better. It’s about both bowlers being ace and hopefully lopping a few chunks off some oversized batting averages. Batsmen are dicks.
If we had to sum up Zaheer Khan, we’d say ‘jack of all trades, master of most‘. That phrase doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, but what does in this day and age? Capitalism? The plot of the Phantom Menace? You? Us?
James Anderson is on the Zaheer Khan path, but four years behind. He’s become effective through adding a second and third dimension to his bowling (Zaheer has five dimensions). Anderson’s first dimension was always pretty tidy, however, and it’s a dimension that comes to the fore in England.
Going the distance
Zaheer Khan is cannier. Zaheer knows it’s a marathon, not a sprint; that your third spell counts as much as your first in the grand scheme of things. He tends to conserve energy for when he needs it.
James Anderson, by contrast, has taken the ‘being ridiculously fit’ option. As quick at 5pm as he is at 11am, he’s like a Tour de France cyclist – he’s all sinew.
Zaheer also gains points for his physique in our book. Paunchiness hovers around him waiting to pounce the minute he stops running around for a living. That’s something we can all get behind.
To devious bowlers toppling spoilt batsmen! [Raises mug and then stares at the clock, willing time to go at eight times speed, like in a computer game, so that the beer hour might arrive sooner.]
We’re supporting India, but we’re struggling with that because we’ve got quite a big reservation. A win for India would, to some extent, be a victory for batting over bowling and we hate batsmen.
For us, much of the joy of cricket is in the fall of wickets and we hate to see bowlers marginalised. India are guilty of this, in a way. It’s not really their fault, but they’ve got to the final largely on the solidity of their batting, not through spectacular performances with the ball.
Yuvraj Singh is India’s second-highest wicket-taker in this World Cup and that’s kind of sad. While Yuvraj is a good one-day bowler, he generally plays on a batsman’s complacency against him as much as anything. It’s a useful and worthy approach, but it should be a supporting role.
India’s top wicket-taker, however, is Zaheer Khan and he IS a bowler. In a match in subcontinental conditions, he is the best quick bowler in the world. Zaheer’s adaptability is based on the fact that he has a range of deliveries that he can call on at different times during the game.
Zaheer is an incredibly skilled bowler and we’d like to see him have the biggest influence on the World Cup final. It would mean a victory for India and a victory for bowling too.
Zaheer Khan deserves better than 2-36 and we won’t begrudge him if he gets more wickets. There are talented bowlers out there who have unflattering career records and Zaheer’s one of them.
It seems wrong to watch a bowler unveil such a range of skills and then see that he’s averaging 34. Zaheer’s had a couple of mediocre patches in his career and he has to bowl on Indian pitches half the time, but he deserves a bowling average that inspires more respect.
He swung England a new one with the new one when India toured England and he’ll swing them a new one with the old one this series. He’ll get two or three wickets an innings, bowl inspired spells for no reward and then Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag will match his figures on the last day and overshadow him.
Another one-day international is decided with the ball. Huzzah. It went the other way this time, however.
Zaheer Khan took 4-21 and Sri Lanka crumpled like a supermarket receipt to 142 all out. We’re increasingly thinking that if there’s swing, you want Zaheer Khan in your side.
Bowlers continued to lord it over meek batsmen when India batted, but the target was reached in no-style-at-all with seven wickets down.
This is what one-day cricket’s all about: shambling, spazzy run-chases.