6th Feb, 2023
"If you need any help, I’m there by your side" the words from five-time IPL champions Mumbai Indians captain and his favourite batter Rohit Sharma took Zahoor Khan some time to process as the UAE pacer was pleasantly surprised with the warm gesture by such a stalwart of world cricket.
Roped in as a net bowler by the Mumbai Indians when the IPL was moved to the UAE in 2020, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zahoor got the chance to bowl at the Hitman.
Zahoor has been a part of the Mumbai Indians net-bowling unit since 2014, but it was after his wicket-maiden in the Abu Dhabi T10, 2019 tournament, that made him a force that the Mumbai Indians were interested in.
Recounting his association with the Mumbai Indians franchise, the 30-year-old said that he desperately wanted to be a part of the team after sharing the dressing room with the likes of Rohit, Jasprit Bumrah and other MI players.
“I still remember the first day of training, I reached the stadium before the team arrived, and as I saw the players coming in, I found myself in one corner..only to find Rohit Sharma’s kit bag beside me. When Rohit came, I offered him the seat, but Instead he hugged me and made me feel relaxed saying, ‘Paaji pura pavilion apka hai, apko kisi bhi cheez jarurat ho toh banda haazir hai (The entire pavilion is yours, in case you need anything let me know),’” said Zahoor.
“And that followed the chance encounter to bowl to Rohit at the nets. I started with a slow bouncer that surprised Rohit, and followed it up with a fast yorker, and another slower bouncer.” recalled Zahoor.
“Rohit bhai would come to me and make me comfortable even though I was the one who troubled him with those deliveries.”
“I remember bowling with Bumrah at the nets when the IPL was played here in 2014, but since then he has become a world class bowler, and we exchanged our cricketing knowledge with each other,” Zahoor recalled.
“My world changed. The legends of the game like Mahela Jayawardene, Zaheer Khan, started addressing me by my name, which is a very big thing for me,” he said.
Once he landed in the MI dressing room, he was overwhelmed by the response, and started visualising himself in the MI jersey one day. When the ILT20 was announced, Zahoor’s passion for playing for the blue jersey came true.
Zahoor said that it was his late mother Farhad Biwi’s blessings that pumped him up before bowling the maiden over to Lendl Simmons in the Abu Dhabi T10, which in a way opened the doors of franchise cricket for him.
“During the Abu Dhabi T10, she was in hospital. My mother told me, "Go and play your best game. The whole world will remember you,” the words resonated Zahoor during the game.
“The dream was to always play for MI as I had served them as a net bowler and fully aware of how they operate. And the ILT20 league came at the right moment. I finally got my chance to feature for the MI team,” said an emotional Zahoor.