New Delhi: His seam position was near perfect, his bowling release came right out of the coaching manual. He used to bend his back and was competitive and fiercely aggressive. Even though he last played international cricket in February 2014 and never got picked after that, still his contribution to Indian cricket will always be remembered.
The Shrirampur lad burst into the international cricket in 2000 in the ICC Knockout tournament making his debut against Kenya taking three wickets. Even though his debut was against the minnows, he impressed everyone with the way he took wickets, bowling some toe crushing Yorkers. Perhaps, he was an answer to India's fast bowling woes in early 2000.
A player is always remembered for his exploits in major tournaments like World Cups or Test series played on foreign soil and when it comes to the left arm pacer Zaheer, he bagged 18 wickets in 11 matches, fourth highest in the list of leading wicket-takers in 2003 World Cup and the most by an Indian bowler in that tournament.
After Javagal Srinath's retirement Zaheer took the mantle of spearheading Indian bowling attack and never looked back.
In late 2005, Zaheer lost his place in the playing XI to youngsters like S Sreesanth and Rudra Pratap Singh. But known for his fighting spirit, the left arm pacer played county cricket in England for Worcestershire and his exploits helped him claw his back in the international arena in 2006.
When India toured England in 2007, Zaheer scalped 18 wickets helping India register their first Test series win in England after 21 years.
Among Zaheer's many accolades, the one that stands out is of him leading India's pace attack during the World Cup 2011. The pacer ended up as the highest wicket-taker alongside Shahid Afridi in the tournament with 21 scalps at an impressive average of 18.76 with an economy rate of 4.83.
Zaheer ends up with a heap of 610 international wickets during his career that spanned for 14 years. He is only behind Anil Kumble (956), Harbhajan Singh (706) and Kapil Dev (687).
The services of the 37-year old will be sorely missed as he was considered as India's bowling captain and always used to pass on his experience and insights to the youngsters, standing at mid-on or mid-off. He was not only a match-winner but also a bowling mentor for the young Indian pacers.