What’s the story?
The mentor for the Delhi Daredevils and former India captain Rahul Dravid has said that former left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan will feature in the 10th season of the Indian Premier League, beginning from the 5th of April.
“Zak was brilliant for us both on and off the field as skipper. He has led really well. And we were really eager to get him this season and even though it can be a challenge since he has not been playing competitive cricket, I am glad and credit to him that he agreed to work on his fitness and stay fit and come back this season," Dravid told Cricketnext in a chat.
"We have a lot of youngsters in the team and that is where we needed Zaheer as he brings in that knowledge and sense of calm in the dressing room and you need that when you are playing a tournament like the IPL. Also, a lot of the youngsters look up to Zaheer as he is an inspiration,” he added.
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There was speculation over whether after the ninth edition of the League, the 2011 World Cup-winner will play in the League again or not. He had announced his international retirement in October 2015, a few days after his 37th birthday and was appointed the captain of the Daredevils in March 2016.
Zaheer proved to be excellent as a leader, particularly in the early stages of the competition where the Daredevils enjoyed a fruitful run before tapering towards the end and narrowly missing out on a spot in the IPL Playoffs.
The heart of the matter
Dravid also admitted that missing players like JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock was a huge blow for the side and in particular, cited the latter’s availability since he is one of their key players last year.
He further stressed upon the aspect of providing sufficient rest to players in a format like the IPL, which can stretch upto almost two months and find a way to succeed in the League.
In the nine seasons of the League so far, the Daredevils have reached the knockout stage of the competition on just three occasions, the last of which came in 2012.
The next question, now that Dravid has confirmed Zaheer will play in this year’s edition, is that whether he would lead the side again or not. The Daredevils also have in their ranks the likes of Angelo Matthews, who has experience of leading Sri Lanka, but that would mean that he will necessarily play in the XI, regardless of form.
Will they be willing to take the risk? Only time will tell. They begin their campaign against Dravid’s former side-The Royal Challengers Bangalore- at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on the 8th of April.
While there will be a consensus that Zaheer may not be the bowler that he was having not played any form of competitive cricket in a really long while, his presence in the setup will not help the team as far as his bowling is concerned, but he could also serve as an excellent mentor for the likes of Mohammad Shami, Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins etc.