Akbar Khan, Shardul Thakur: Mumbai's charged-up pace battery

Akbar KhanOn Friday, Mumbai saw two callow pacers debutant Akbar Khan and one-season-old Shardul Thakur doing most of the work while Zaheer shouldered the responsibility of dismissing the big names against Vidarbha. PTI

In their many conversations over the last one month, Zaheer Khan had asked his mentor Sudhir Naik to identify young pacers on Mumbai's local circuit. Those who could bowl quick were to be brought to the India spearhead. The request came in after Zaheer had looked about in the dressing room and realised the dearth of seamers in Mumbai, and he took on the onus of helping out raw products and nurture them under him.

Zaheer's concerns had been far-sighted and the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) selection committee agreed by giving him a few fast bowlers whom they felt had the ability to bowl quick and take wickets. Those in the selection committee knew Zaheer's call-up for South Africa was imminent and with Dhawal Kulkarni out for nearly a month and Ajit Agarkar retiring, Mumbai who had started the season well were bound to struggle.

Guru picks his disciples

Zaheer then decided not to field Javed Khan so that he could watch over two other pacers and groom them, so they weren't entirely inexperienced when he was away on national duty. On Friday, Mumbai saw two callow pacers debutant Akbar Khan and one-season-old Shardul Thakur doing most of the work while Zaheer shouldered the responsibility of dismissing the big names against Vidarbha.

After putting 261 runs on the board (Mumbai had resumed the day at 254 for 8), the hosts took a mere 41.1 overs to shunt out Vidarbha and force their bowlers to come back and bowl. The visitors were out for a paltry 113 on Day Two of the four-day Ranji Trophy game and of the ten wickets, nine were claimed by Mumbai's medium-pacers.

Thakur, who finished with figures of 3 for 40, said he had initially been trying to bowl quick but Zaheer's advice came handy. It was simply to get his line right first so the rest would follow. The trend at the Wankhede is of bowlers enjoying the first session, but only if they could stay disciplined and consistent in their line.

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