Mumbai: He is India's pace spearhead, but Zaheer Khan wants to use the slower ball as a weapon during next month's cricket World Cup in the West Indies.

Slower ball can be a ``invaluable asset'' on wickets such as those in the West Indies that are not responsive to fast bowlers, the left-handed medium-fast bowler, who has been in excellent form since making a comeback into the team, said.

Zaheer also underlined the importance of cutting down on extras as vital to Team India's campaign in the World Cup hours before the team's departure to the West Indies. ``I think it would be absolutely key to the team's plan to cut down on extras in the World Cup,'' Zaheer told PTI in an interview.

``When you overstep or bowl wide, you present the opposition with an extra ball and a run which can have a huge influence in the outcome of the game.''

Zaheer's recent run is a testimony of how closely he follows the belief he advocates so strongly. The Mumbai paceman has played 10 one-day matches since the tour to South Africa and conceded just nine wides and two no-balls, a shade over an extra a match.

Zaheer has experienced the entire gamut of emotions in his international career during which he made a fairytale debut, rose to be the front-rank bowler before injuries and poor form, not to speak of indifference with the team management, appeared to have put a halt to his career. He has now reclaimed the position in the side and his insights on the eve of his second representation in World Cups speak about a man in know of his craft.

The key

Playing in County cricket in England last summer has enhanced his profile as a cricketer. Zaheer firmly believes that Power Plays have a big say in the outcome of a game and hence it's important that the opposition is not allowed to get away with a sound start.

``It's absolutely key how you bowl in the first spell, the first 20 overs which usually are Power Plays in one-day cricket. Early breakthroughs are vital and can stop the opposition from having a flying start.''

Zaheer said the first two weeks would help in acclimatising the Indian team to the conditions and pitches of the Caribbean. ``The first two weeks of stay during which we would train, play practice games and adjust to different conditions would be of immense help. It would prepare us for the battles ahead in the competition.''

The example of Munaf Patel, who excelled on his first tour to the West Indies last year, is not lost on Zaheer.

``Munaf is an excellent bowler and he showed on the last tour the importance of bowling wicket to wicket. The bounce he extracts from the surface is of great help to him. It is critical that batsmen are allowed no room to play their shots in one-day cricket.''

Casting his eye at World champions Australia, Zaheer does not feel it can be discounted even though Brett Lee is injured and it had a spate of losses recently.

``No side could be discounted in one-day cricket. It purely depends on how you perform on a given day. Brett Lee's loss though is a big blow to the Australians.'' PTI

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