Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 January 2020

'If I get picked, there will be nothing bigger': UAE pace star Zahoor Khan under the hammer at IPL auction

Zahoor looks to become just the second player from the country to make the cut at Indian Premier League

UAE's Zahoor Khan celebrating iuring the recent World Cup T20 qualifiers. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) 
UAE's Zahoor Khan celebrating iuring the recent World Cup T20 qualifiers. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) 

Zahoor Khan is hopeful he can become just the second UAE player to feature in the Indian Premier League.

A total of 332 players will go under the hammer on Thursday, December 19, at the auction for the 2020 IPL.

Zahoor is one of just three players from non-Test playing countries to feature, along with United States pace bowler Ali Khan and Scotland batsman George Munsey.

Despite limited opportunities, the UAE pace bowler has impressed in franchise cricket recent times. He was the most economical bowler at the Global T20 Canada in the summer, and was outstanding in the Abu Dhabi T10 last month.

If he were to make the cut, he would be the second UAE player to be recruited for the IPL.

Chirag Suri, the young opening batsman, was a non-playing member of the Gujarat Lions franchise in 2017.

“I don’t know my lot number yet, but I will definitely be watching the auction,” said Zahoor, who missed the UAE’s one-day international against Scotland on Sunday with a groin strain.

“If I get picked, there will be nothing bigger. There is no bigger domestic league in the world for any player to play in than the IPL.”

ECB received emails from the IPL management expressing interest in Zahoor, which has led to him being named on the auction list.

That was most likely brought about by his exploits in the T10, specifically in a match against IPL-regular Lendl Simmons.

Simmons was in prime form for Northern Warriors against Deccan Gladiators – against all bowlers other than Zahoor.

Despite making 70 in 39 balls in that innings, Simmons went nine balls in a row without scoring off Zahoor, eventually falling to the UAE bowler.

“Lendl Simmons was my teammate in Canada, and he knew I bowl good yorkers,” Zahoor, 30, said. “I had that in my mind and set a field for yorkers, then bowled slower-ball bouncers. I was playing with Simmons’ mind.”

Zahoor’s performance in that match won a glowing endorsement from Deccan’s captain Shane Watson, the former Australia opener.

“Zahoor is a highly-skilled bowler,” Watson, who has also been an IPL mainstay, said. “Lendl Simmons is a world-class player, but he couldn’t get a bat on him.”

Zahoor’s prospects for being selected could hinge on the fact he is a Pakistan national. As such, it might prove difficult for him to secure a visa to travel to India. His particular skills might be well valued by IPL suitors, though.

His method is based around a remarkable dexterity for changes of pace, as well as bowling yorkers, all of which can be well-suited limiting batsmen in 20-over cricket.

In that game against Simmons, 10 of the 12 deliveries he sent down were not scored off.

Coincidentally, he and Ali Khan, the other Associate bowler in the IPL auction, were the only two players to bowl maidens in the T10.

“I played tape ball cricket in Pakistan and learnt a lot there, then in UAE domestic cricket, the boundaries are smaller and there are dangerous batsmen who just go for their shots,” Zahoor said.

“I tried to implement new skills there, and I got a lot of confidence. Then [UAE coach] Dougie Brown and Mohsin Arif, my coach at ANIB, gave me similar advice.

“They would make me bowl a lot of yorkers, slow yorkers, wide yorkers. That is where it comes from. I learnt all the variations trying by myself in domestic cricket.

“Playing matches that start at 9pm, when there is a lot of dew, meant the need to experiment.

“If I bowled a bouncer at 140kph, then I might bowl a slower bouncer at 120kph, then the next ball might be even less, at 110. The ball I bowled to Simmons was right down at 105.

“I keep trying. I’m confident of bowling three different variations of slower bouncers.”

Updated: December 15, 2019 04:22 PM

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