Eight days into his 38th year, ‘India’s greatest left-arm pacer’ Zaheer Khan on Thursday announced retirement from international cricket, saying his body was not responding to the mind.
Zaheer, who mastered swinging the ball, especially with the old ball, seems contented with his cricketing journey, which included 14 years of international career. And so is his mother.
“My mother summarised it well in reaction to my decision to retire, ‘Theek hein, bahut accha safar tha hamara…(It’s okay, our journey was good)’,” Zaheer said in his retirement statement on Thursday.
Zaheer, is contracted with IPL franchise Delhi Daredevils, said he would play the 2016 edition of the IPL. An engineer by qualification, Zaheer captured 311 wickets in 92 Tests, 282 in 200 One-day Internationals and 17 in 17 Twenty20 Internationals.
Paying rich tributes to their former India teammate, Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted that Zaheer was “most clever fast bowler I know” while Sachin Tendulkar called him “one of the coolest pace bowlers…”.
“Well done ZAK on a fantastic career.without U it wd hve been very difficult to achieve what the ICT did.most clever fast bowler I know,” Dhoni tweeted. “Life has just started now,U still can and definitely will contribute a lot to Indian Cricket.wish U all the success.”
Tendulkar tweeted, “One of the coolest pace bowlers I know. He was a bowler who could ‘out think’ the batsman most of the times. Always up for a challenge. I am sure he will do well as he begins a new chapter in his life. Wishing @ImZaheer all success in his retired life.”
Suresh Raina, tweeted, “My go-to man. Perfect gentleman. Big Brother. And a legend in his own right. Good luck for your new innings @ImZaheer Wonderful to know u.”
BCCI, in its tribute, described Zaheer as “India’s greatest left-arm pacer”, with president Shashank Manohar acknowledging his outstanding service to Indian cricket”.
Zaheer’s decision to retire could have been majorly influenced by the Mumbai selectors’ decision to ignore him for the Ranji Trophy in the ongoing domestic season. His physical fitness could have been a major reason for the decision, two years after Zaheer captained Mumbai.
Zaheer has quite often struggled in his 14-year international career – and that was also obvious during the 2015 IPL when he hardly turned out for Delhi Daredevils after the franchise bought him for Rs 4 crore at the auction.
Mumbai selectors’ decision seems to have forced Zaheer to read the writing on the wall. And, in his signed retirement statement, he admitted that his body was not responding to his mind.
“You almost ‘will’ yourself and want to push that few, extra miles but then the body, after nearly two decades, decides not to respond. As I was training for the upcoming [2015-16] season, it dawned on me that my shoulder may not last the rigours of bowling nearly eighteen overs a day, and that’s when I knew it was time,” Zaheer, still a bachelor, said the statement while calling a press conference in Mumbai.
“With immediate effect, I bid adieu to my career in international cricket. I look forward to signing off my last season in domestic cricket at the conclusion of IPL season 9,” he said.
“My greatest cricketing moment was lifting the World Cup as part of team India and creating history. We played as a top team and being part of the journey of India as a top ODI side was very fulfilling.”
In domestic tournaments, he represented his home city Baroda, besides Mumbai, where he played most of his cricket. He also represented Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, apart from Surrey and Worcestershire in English county cricket.