Ponting`s biggest concern: Zaheer Khan

Updated: Mar 23, 2011, 21:11 PM IST

Ahmedabad: In a country obsessed with individual milestones, Sachin Tendulkar attracts most of the publicity.

Australia, though, have paid equal attention to another Indian who calls Mumbai his home before Thursday`s second World Cup quarter-final. Zaheer Khan has often provided the early breakthroughs to set the stage for his slow bowling colleagues such as Harbhajan Singh to thrive.

While a packed crowd at the Sardar Patel Stadium hope Tendulkar will reach his 100th international century on Thursday, Ponting`s bigger concern is Zaheer.

"We had a good look at how India used him. He bowls three-four overs with the brand new ball and is generally held back until the 26th-27th over when the ball is reverse swinging. He then bowls in the batting powerplay," Ponting told reporters on Wednesday.

"He gets the majority of his wickets when the teams are really attacking him. That`s some lessons we have learned. We can try to put pressure on him as he is their main man and get him out (of the attack) or go the other way and try to hit the other guys."

A master tactician who is equally lethal with both the new and old ball because of his command of swing both conventional and reverse, Zaheer`s contribution does not end with sending down his quota of 10 overs.

When he is not bowling, Zaheer at mid-off, is a constant source of inspiration and ideas for fellow pacemen such as Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel and is considered India`s bowling captain.

"We have relied a lot on him to get us those breakthroughs and he has always responded well," captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said.

"I think the responsibility is with all the players but, at the same time, if Zaheer provides us with the breakthroughs we don`t really mind. We have been able to capitalise on the breakthroughs that we have got. That`s a big positive for us."

Bureau Report