Smith’s nemesis returns

2013-11-26 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — The Indian cricket selectors have sprung a major surprise by bringing a player out of the wilderness with only one mission in mind: to deliver Graeme Smith’s scalp.

Zaheer Khan has been brought back by the selectors for the Test series against South Africa next month. It would not be out of line for Khan to claim that he is Smith’s biggest nemesis in international cricket.

His comeback could be as much part of psychological warfare as it is about his ability to bowl successfully on South African pitches … and against Smith.

The 35-year-old left-hand speedster played his last Test for India more than a year ago, but his ability to take Smith’s wicket — almost at will — ensured that he received the call-up.

Khan, who is a veteran of 88 Tests, only needs five more wickets to reach the 300 mark in Test cricket. His last Test was the third and final one of the series against England in Calcutta in 2012.

After that his level of playing declined sharply and he has also had problems with his fitness.

He was not offered a contract with the national team this year, but the 13 wickets he took while playing in the three domestic matches must have caught the attention of the selectors.

No other player has sent Smith back to the pavilion in international cricket more than Khan — 12 times in total. Six of them happened during the nine Tests that he played against Smith, as well as six times during eight one-day international matches.

New Zealand’s Chris Martin has taken Smith’s wicket eight times in Test matches.

Khan is one of five fast bowlers in the Indian squad.

The others are Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and rookie Mohammed Shami, who entered the international arena amidst a huge ovation during the recent Test series against the West Indians.

During India’s previous tour to SA in 2010/11, Khan took 10 wickets in the two Tests he played.

The selectors are likely of the opinion that his success rate on South African pitches could be a plus factor for the Indians.

Khan is not a member of the ODI squad that will play three games prior to the two Tests.

One of the other old hands, top order batsman Gautam Gambhir has been left completely out of the touring party.

With the absence of Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, who has just retired, as well as Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, the Indian top order will look remarkably different from the previous one that toured SA.

It is expected that Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who both possess versatile abilities, will be the star batsmen.

Murali Vijay, Shikhar Shawan and Cheteshwar Pujara will form part of the top order during the ODIs and Test matches. They have visited SA earlier as members of the Indian A team, but the pitches and bowling attacks they will face now will be vastly different from those in Rustenburg and that of the University of Pretoria in the middle of winter, when they scored many runs.

WHO’S GOT SMITH’S NUMBER?

A list of the bowlers who have gotten Smith out the most in Test cricket.

1. Chris Martin (NZ) —

8 wickets in 11 matches

2. Zaheer Khan (Ind)

— 6 wickets in 9 matches

3. James Anderson (Eng)

— 6 wickets in 17 matches

4. Saeed Ajmal (Pak)

— 5 wickets in 6 matches

5. Glen McGrath (Aus)

— 5 wickets in 6 matches

6. Mitchell Johnson (Aus)

— 5 wickets in 8 matches

7. Sree Sreesanth (Ind)

— 5 wickets in 9 matches

8. Matthew Hoggard (Eng)

— 4 wickets in 5 matches

9. Fidel Edwards (WI)

— 4 wickets in 8 matches

10. Brett Lee (Aus)

— 4 wickets in 10 matches

Indian squads

Test: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kolhi, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ambati Rayudu, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha. ODIs: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ambati Rayudu, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra.

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