Zaheer Khan made a very bold and insightful statement that many didn't expect him to make. Hopefully this will make selectors, journalists, commentators and coaches of Indian cricket to sit up and take notice.
His remark that Indian bodies are not designed to bowl fast and that it doesn't come naturally to the bowlers is quite significant. Here is a player who came down to Mumbai from Shrirampur town near Nasik in Maharashtra. There was no cricket coaching that he received in his formative years.
But the tall and well-built Zaheer Khan seemed a natural fast bowler when he played in Mumbai. He was lucky that his coach Sudhir Naik (former Mumbai captain and India opening batsman) didn't tinker with his technique and approach.
On the atrocious bumpy run up of the maidans of Mumbai, Zaheer Khan bowled long spells relentlessly. He was quietly ambitious and his body language indicated this steely resolve. Whenever he was injured, due to the unevenness of the run-up, he was told of how Mumbai fast bowlers overcame the maidan problems. The fact is that Mumbai hardly produced any fast bowlers of international class before a bowling scheme produced a few like Kuruvilla and Ankola.
Zaheer Khan rarely used the gymnasium but preferred to bowl more either in the nets or in matches. He loved bowling irrespective of the state of the pitch or the match. Later Naik advised him to seek technical guidance from Dennis Lillee and T.A. Sekar at the MRF Pace Foundation.
It's at the foundation that he picked up all that was necessary for fast bowling. His recent remarks about the body of Indian fast bowlers are an echo of the statement he had made a few years ago. But Greg Chappell wasn't prepared to agree and insisted more on work off the field.
Now that injury management in Indian cricket has gone completely pear shaped, Zaheer Khan's statement should make the decision makers work on a solution. When Frank Tyson saw all under-19 fast bowlers of Mumbai for the first time at the outset of his coaching in a bowling scheme in 1990, he ended up commenting, “tiny shoulders and thin legs don't make fast bowlers”.
Nonetheless he coached them for the next three years and most of them went on to play either for India or for Mumbai. In fact bowlers of that scheme — fast and spin combined — captured more than 5000 first class wickets.
Perhaps it's Zaheer Khan's first-hand account of how to build your body for becoming a successful fast bowler that should inspire upcoming fast bowlers in India. The problem with young bowlers is either they are spending too much time in training and ignore bowling or they have no clue about the training methods.
Kapil Dev always said you must listen to your body and play accordingly.
Zaheer has reinforced this belief and also emphasised upon the need for practice. During the time Kapil Dev played for India, not many international matches were played. Today's Indian cricketer is living out of suitcases and there is hardly any time for him to recover from any niggles. The training methods have to be perfect.
It's time we conduct mass selections for fast bowlers in each State and only pick the boys with a natural built.
It's a country of more than 700 districts. Indian cricket management is not able to cater to the huge demand through tournaments. Mass selections are possibly the best option.