New Delhi: His body ravaged by injuries, Zaheer Khan, one of India’s greatest fast bowlers, today bid adieu to international cricket, admitting that he could no longer handle the rigours of the game.
“As I was training for the upcoming season, it dawned on me that my shoulder may not last the rigours of bowling nearly 18 overs a day, and that’s when I knew it was time,” Zaheer said in an elaborate statement.
“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 the Indian Premier League season 9,” he said.
The 37-year-old left-arm pacer, who has played 92 Test matches, 200 ODIs and 17 T20 Internationals has been in and out of the team in the last three to four years due to recurrent injuries which a took a toll on his body.
Zaheer, who is is contracted with Delhi Daredevils in the IPL, will end his doemstic career next year with the event’s ninth edition.
In 92 Test matches, Zaheer has taken 311 wickets and is fourth highest wicket-taker in longer version amongst Indians after Anil Kumble (619), Kapil Dev (434) and Harbhajan Singh (417).He picked 282 wickets in 200 ODIs he played besides 17 scalps from as many Twenty20s.
He played a major role in India’s 2011 World Cup triumph with 21 wickets in the tournament. “The toughest call in a cricketing career is when one has to walk away from the game itself. You almost will yourself and want to push that few, extra miles but then the body, after nearly two decades, decides not to respond,” Zaheer said in the statement.
Zaheer said being part of the 2011 World Cup winning team was the most cherished moment of his career.
“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,” he said.
The affable bowler said he would try and give back to the game although he hasn’t yet decided how.
” ‘Zak is bak’ is perhaps a headline that may come my way again as I have every intention of giving back to this game and our wonderful country which gave this kid from Shrirampur the opportunity to chase and live his dream,” he said.
Recalling his journey, Zaheer said he was grateful to all his coaches and captains for having faith in his abilities.
“Leading upto my debut for India in 2000, I got crucial opportunities with people backing me at different and difficult stages and I was able to contribute to Indian cricket and learn many things along the way,” he said.
“For those who supported me, especially in the BCCI, Baroda Cricket Association and Mumbai Cricket Association, I am grateful for the encouragement. It has been a privilege to be a part of various teams during my career including the Indian cricket team, Baroda, Mumbai, Worcestershire (critical to my comeback in the national team in 2007), Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils.
“Today I have many many individuals to thank — from physios, trainers, support staff, colleagues, captains, coaches selectors, senior officials, administrators in various associations, groundsmen, team management, as also team owners. Kindly pardon me for my inability to name each one of you but that does not take away from the deep sense of gratitude I have for your support in allowing me to live my dream,” he added.
Zaheer also thanked his family, teammates and fans for helping him strive to be a better cricketer.
“My colleagues, who I shared dressing room pranks, have over the years become some of my closest friends. It has been a pleasure to play alongside them as each added a different perpective. I have enjoyed listening to them as also contributing in a small way to their growth,” he said.
“I can’t thank my parents enough for understanding me and allowing me to chase my dream. My elder brother, Zeeshan, who dutifully reminded me that, ‘my job wasn’t finished with my India debut, but I needed to make every game count’. My younger brother, Anees, has shouldered a lot of pressure which allowed me the freedom to enjoy on the cricket field,” he added.
“To those millions of fans and well wishers of Indian cricket who’ve watched and encouraged me over the years, I trust you know that I was always trying and never gave up.”
In the end, Zaheer expressed his gratitude towards the game. “Cricket has been my only life over the past two decades and is in fact that the only thing I know well. Cricket has made me the individual I am, giving me everything in life and much more.
I walk away with fantastic memories, life defining experiences and great friendships. My mother summarised it well in reaction to my decision to retire, ‘Theek hein, bahut accha safar tha hamara’ (It’s ok, our journey has been very good),” he said.