IPL auctions always throw up surprises. If Monday’s auction in Bangalore saw unheralded names like Kishan Cariappa, Shreyas Iyer and Sarfaraz Khan emerge as unexpected millionaires, Zaheer Khan hitting pay dirt was equally startling. The 36-year-old injury prone former Indian pacer was snapped up by Delhi Daredevils for Rs 4 crores after a bidding war with Mumbai Indians.
Zaheer was unsold in the first round. Delhi came with deep pockets and chose experience over potential when it came to the big buys. Buying Royal Challengers Bangalore reject Yuvraj Singh for a record Rs 16 crores eloquently proves this.
“It was amazing that two teams showed such faith in me,” Zaheer told ESPNcricinfo. “Frankly, I was a bit concerned about how people would look at me, as I was completely out of the game for a long time,” he added.
With over 600 international wickets across the three formats, Zaheer was India’s leading speedster till February last year. But the injuries left him on the sidelines as he skipped the Ranji Trophy’s long format to recover in time for this year’s IPL. The cricketer-turned-businessman last played a competitive match in May 2014 for RCB.
“The reason I stayed away from Ranji Trophy this season was because of the workload,” Zaheer said. “(Playing the longer format) was still seven-eight weeks away. (But) I knew I could bowl four overs, and contribute in other ways in an IPL team by helping out younger bowlers. I don’t want my last memory to be one of walking off the field injured,” a business-like Zaheer told the cricket website.
There is no doubt Zaheer’s ability with the new ball. He remains a fighter on the field and still keen to play the longer format of the game. But injuries have left him sad.
“It was very frustrating to be injured with the World Cup around the corner. I was hoping to do the right things, but my body was not responding. You got to listen to your body. If you are not ready, you are not ready,” Zaheer said.
Like Yuvraj, Zaheer is happy to reunite with India’s 2011 World Cup-winning coach Gary Kirsten. Delhi will not be short on experience this season. Will it translate into performance?