The 37-year-old ended his international career due to a series of injuries, the latest being a shoulder complaint. He made his India debut in 2000 and played his last game for the country in 2014 against New Zealand at Wellington.
Left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan announced his retirement from international cricket on Thursday after a shoulder injury that has put paid his efforts to return to action, capping a 14-year long career punctuated by considerable success as well as crippling injuries.
He is leaving the stage after playing in 92 Tests and 200 One-Day Internationals (ODIs), picking up 282 and 311 wickets, respectively. He also claimed 17 wickets in as many T20 internationals.
“With immediate effect, I bid adieu to my career in international cricket. I look forward to signing off my last season in domestic cricket at the conclusion of Indian Premier League season 9,” Zaheer said in a statement on Thursday.
“As I was training for the upcoming season, it dawned on me that my shoulder may not last the rigours of bowling nearly eighteen overs a day, and that’s when I knew it was time.”
Born in Shrirampur, Maharashtra, Zaheer is India’s fourth highest wicket-taker in Tests after spin legend Anil Kumble (619), pace king Kapil Dev (434) and veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh (417). He also claimed 17 scalps from as many Twenty20s and was the joint highest wicket-taker in the 2011 World Cup along with Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi, claiming 21 wickets at an average of 18.76.
Zaheer identified the 2011 World Cup win as the greatest moment of his career in his long and detailed farewell statement.
“We played as a top team and being part of the journey of India as a top ODI side was very fulfilling.”
He will, however, call time on his domestic career after the conclusion on the 2016 Indian Premier league (IPL 9). Zaheer played for Delhi Daredevils in the 2015 IPL and for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) paid rich tributes to the fast bowler, who in his latter stages of his career utilised his experience in guiding the junior pacers of the team, instilling confidence in them and giving them insights into finer points of pace bowling.
India’s limited overs skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni even acknowledged his contribution, publicly calling him the “captain” of the bowlers.
“The BCCI appreciates Zaheer Khan’s outstanding service to Indian Cricket. He served Indian cricket with remarkable passion and commitment. Being a fast bowler in the Indian subcontinent is challenging but he led the bowling attack with distinction and contributed significantly to the success of Indian cricket. I wish him all the best for the future,” BCCI president Shashank Manohar said in a statement on Thursday.
Zaheer’s former teammates were not too far behind in praising the quick, who has earned a lot of accolades for his proficient use of both the old and new balls.
“One of the coolest pace bowlers I know. He was a bowler who could ‘out-think’ the batsman most of the times. Always up for a challenge. I am sure he will do well as he begins a new chapter in his life. Wishing @ImZaheer all success in his retired life,” batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar said on Twitter.
His sentiments were echoed by a host of other co-players including Anil Kumble, Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajit Agarkar.
“Well done ZAK on a fantastic career. Without U it would have been very difficult to achieve what the ICT did.most clever fast bowler I know. Life has just started now, U still can and definitely will contribute a lot to Indian Cricket. Wish U all the success,” Dhoni, now India’s limited overs skipper, wrote on Twitter.
V.V.S. Laxman also suggested that despite his already immense contribution, he still has a lot to offer to Indian cricket, especially in the “development of young fast bowlers”, a role he carried out during the later stages of his career.