I just have to show up: Zaheer Khan's plans for bunny Graeme Smith
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The smirk appeared almost the instant he heard the name Graeme Smith. The question, regarding the wood he's had on the Protea Test skipper, was something Zaheer Khan would have expected.
"I think I just have to turn up," he said, the smile growing wider. The veteran left-arm pacer then had to pause as the rest of the room, including his five teammates seated on the podium, stopped laughing and regained their composure.
Zaheer was after all talking about the man he's dismissed on 13 occasions in international cricket, pretty much in the same fashion — trapped lbw or bowled with the ball coming in sharply on each occasion.
He turned diplomatic for the rest of his response, admitting that Smith had a terrific record in Test matches and calling him a good leader. But he never followed up his earlier declaration with a customary "I was kidding." Probably because he wasn't. Zaheer had made his point and thrown down the gauntlet, sending a message to the leader of the opposition camp.
It wasn't the first time he had done so. While he may be a reluctant speaker when it comes to cricket on most occasions, Zaheer has never been shy in terms of riling and stirring up the opposition.
And he's almost always chosen the right time and the platform to do so. If it was the jellybeans incident involving Matt Prior during the England tour of 2007, the 35-year-old had thrown a fireball at the Australians a year later in India.
That too on a day where he and Harbhajan Singh had narrowly saved the day along with rain. "They know they can't take 20 wickets and they are on the back foot. They couldn't get me or Bhajji out and they are under pressure," he had said.