Khan ‘shouldn’t drop his pace’, says Anil Kumble

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“Zaheer will be the leader”

Former India leg-spinner Anil Kumble has announced that veteran left-arm pace bowler Zaheer Khan “shouldn’t drop his pace” during the Test series against South Africa, which gets underway on December 18 in Johannesburg, since the conditions in the African nation are extremely pace-friendly.

Kumble also expects Khan to be “the leader” of India’s pace attack throughout the two-Test series.

“Zaheer will be the leader,” Kumble told The Hindu. “He will get reverse (swing) as well. [I] Just hope he bowls at his usual speed. He shouldn’t drop his pace, shouldn’t bowl within himself. It would be good if he can knock a few wickets upfront.”

Former India seamer Javagal Srinath stated that Khan will enjoy a lot of success in South Africa if he bowls the correct lines and lengths.

“Strength and energy will be critical to Zaheer,” Srinath added. “As for line, length and strategies, he is a master at that.

“It boils down to his core strength and [about] him coming in for the right spells and sustaining that energy. Another core area for Zaheer is the way he guides the other bowlers.”

Khan has taken 23 wickets at an average of 32.52 in the six Test matches he has played in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Kumble pointed out that the national team’s spin attack will find it tough to get accustomed to the conditions as they are the complete opposite of that in India.

“It does not spin much but you do get bounce from the surface,” Kumble said. “The spinners have to take that into account when they set the field. The ball tends to get soft after 20 overs, so the spinners need to handle that in the middle overs. Between the grounds, there is not much at Johannesburg but Durban does a bit more. And if the game goes to the fourth and fifth day, the spinners will have a role.”

However, Kumble called on spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to keep hitting the rough patches that appear on the pitch.

“I enjoyed bowling there, bowling into the rough especially against a left-handed batsman,” Kumble said. “With Zaheer and hopefully (Lonwabo) Tsotsobe bowling (both being left-arm seamers), there will be a rough that Ashwin can exploit.”

Kumble added that India’s bowling attack cannot solely rely on trying to surprise the South African batsmen with the bounce they get off the pitch.

“The length has to be neither forward nor backward,” Kumble said. “It has to be a length where after pitching, the height of the ball should be able to hit the knee roll of the pad and if the batsman snicks it, there is enough carry for the catch to be taken. You can’t just release the ball, even if there is swing you need to hit the deck hard.”

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