Zaheer ready for Aussie challenge

After making a successful comeback into the side, Zaheer's hunger for wickets is an ominous sign for Aussies, who are in India for a 4-match Test series.

updated: December 18, 2008 18:10 IST
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It's been eight years since India's bowling spearhead Zaheer Khan made his international debut but the pacer is not satisfied with his achievements and is yearning for more and his hunger for wickets is an ominous sign for Australia, who are in India for a four-match Test series.

In an exclusive interview to NDTV, Zaheer said that Ricky Ponting's poor record against spinners in India could affect the outcome of the series.

When asked about Australia relying on pace while India banking on spinners, Zaheer said the team would play to its strengths.

"It's good to play against the world's best. We are playing to our strength's, we are not bothered about what they are doing. We are looking to get some good match practice and this Irani Trophy has definitely helped us.

"Ponting's poor record is an advantage for us, this could be his last series as a captain, if you see his statements in the press (on Australia being underdogs) you can make out he is under pressure. It works to our advantage," he said.

After being in and out of the side, Zaheer returned to the side touring England in 2007 where he swung the series in India's favour and grabbed the Man of the Series award. But then conditions were not as helpful as England in the recent series in Sri Lanka. India may have lost the Test series and won the ODIs but Zaheer impressed one and all with his ability to swing in even unfavourable conditions. Now he's gearing up for the next big challenge.

"I am prepared for the Australia series, I am prepared for the challenge. Irani Trophy will definitely help me get into that match fitness mode," Khan said.

So what keeps him motivated to perform successfully at the highest level?

"The biggest motivation for me is representing India, it's just being out there helping the team win matches. It's the biggest milestone to be bowling for your country at the highest level, playing for your country and doing well."

But despite his achievements and picking 178 wickets in 56 Tests, Zaheer is not satisfied statistically.

"I can look back on my statistics at the end of my career and say I have not done enough, I am never happy at my present state but it's been a good journey so far, eight years with the team, I have enjoyed every moment and will continue to do the same," he said.

The Mumbai quickie has also put the 2004 defeat to World Champions behind and is quite upbeat about the Australia series.

"We have been playing very good cricket lately, we have to play very good cricket to beat Australia, we are not thinking about the past, we are just thinking about what we have to do over the coming one and a half months. The Australian team relies a lot on Hayden and it will be good to get him out early," he said.

So which one is his favourite moment of the eight-year long career?

"Whole of 2007, my experience in county cricket and then the England tour. The county experience helped me better in my overall preparation," Zak said.

Experts believe Zaheer changed his bowling style that worked for him. What is his take?

"That's what experience does to you, it's a learning process. When I see Ishant nowadays, I remember the days when I used to be that aggressive in terms of my mannerisms. Experience is very important at this level, learning never stops and I haven't stopped learning," said the 30-year-old bowler.

And the senior pro doesn't want to clog Ishant's mind with suggestions and advices.

"He's running in, he's fearless and he's learning. It's better he's left alone. We are moving forward as far as fast bowling is concerned. There was a concern in the past, but now we have so many fast bowlers it's a great help for the Indian team." Zaheer said.