His aggressive run-up, a jump off the crease, followed by a swinging yorker onto the stumps – such was Zaheer Khan's approach to fast bowling that every cricket fan wanted to follow his action. One of the genuine match-winners for India, Zaheer Khan was a vital cog in the Indian line-up under Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid’s regime.
Apart from being India’s premier fast bowler, Zaheer Khan also rescued Team India with his big-hitting abilities. In his first year of international cricket, India were hosting Zimbabwe for a five-match ODI series. In the third game of that series, India at one stage were 258-8 after 49.2 overs. The right-handed batsman then clubbed Zimbabwean Henry Olanga for four sixes of the final four balls to end the Indian innings at 283-8.
In the first Test of a two-match series against Bangladesh in 2004, Zaheer Khan formed a 133-run 10th wicket stand with Sachin Tendulkar in the first innings. Both Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan went onto register their highest Test scores. Zaheer’s innings came off 115 balls which comprised of 10 boundaries and two sixes.
India were bowled out for 99 in their first innings of the second Test against New Zealand in Hamilton. In an unexpected turnaround, the visitors still managed to gain a first-innings lead as the home team were then bundled out for 94. Zak rocked New Zealand’s batting line-up on his way to figures of 13.2-4-29-5. Team India, however, still lost the match but Zaheer’s efforts were much appreciated.
2. Winning runs in NatWest Trophy, 2002
The 2002 NatWest Trophy win remains one of the most defining moments in India’s rich limited-overs history. Chasing a record 326 in the final, Zaheer Khan was batting with Mohammad Kaif in the final over with two runs still to get. Zaheer guided down a Flintoff delivery for two runs to register one of India’s most famous wins in England.
1. ICC Cricket World Cup 2011
In a successful World Cup campaign, Zaheer was one of the heroes of the side which brought the cup back home after 28 years. Throughout the tournament, Zaheer Khan picked up 21 wickets and was the joint wicket-taker alongside Shahid Afridi. His opening spell in the final reads 5-3-6-1. Those five overs up-front put Sri Lanka under early pressure as the Indian batsmen successfully chased down their 274 run target.