So I thought I'd look at his career, and see how well he's actually done.
Over his career he has averaged 31.78 which puts him 208th out of the 448 bowlers to have bowled more than 450 overs in Test cricket. This is somewhat underwhelming, putting him in the same region as Daryl Tuffey and Andre Nel. While both of these were good bowlers, they were hardly player that you expect to regularly win their team a series.
But Zaheer has had a couple of distinct disadvantages, but also one advantage.
1. India don't have a huge quantity of quality pace bowlers, so he was possibly picked before he was ready, and had to play when he was out of form, rather than in for example South Africa or England where a player has to be bowling very well to just make the side.
2. India play a large quantity of their cricket in Asian conditions, which are not suited for pace bowling.
3. Zaheer Khan has not had to bowl against Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dravid, Ghambir or Laxman. India's batsmen have tormented bowlers from outside South Africa over the last 10 years.
So to fully assess his ability, we need to filter the results.
Here are some indicators of where he fits in:
Pace bowlers in Asia, 2008-2011 (min 500 deliveries)
All pace bowlers outside of Asia (min 500 deliveries)
All bowlers last 2 years (minimum 450 overs)
Away games against Teams other than India, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe (min 150 overs bowled)
|Shakib Al Hasan||8||35||26.51||56.0|
We can see that he is near the top, but not at to top for most of these measures. He has certainly shown that he can do well. The most interesting thing for me here though is how well Praveen Kumar has done. He may well be a big loss in this series. Given that Ishant does not even figure in the last 3 tables, it is not unreasonable to expect that India are very reliant on Zaheer.
The final stat I want to look at is influence that a player having a good day has on his team. This is a difficult thing to measure, as a bowler can bowl really well (like Peter Siddle at the 'Gabba) and create so much pressure that loose bowling at the other end gets wickets. However I've looked at bowlers who have taken 5 wicket bags in 5 or more matches in the last 5 years, and seen the impact they have had on their team.
To quantify this I have used football scoring (3 points for a win 1 point for a draw) for matches, and found what percentage of available points a team has got over that time, and then in matches where each player has taken a big haul of wickets, and finally I have divided them. As a result we find out how much better the team does when this bowler performs than when they don't.
|Name||5wi in Match||5wi w-l-d||Team w-l-d||Influence|
|Shakib Al Hasan||9||1-8-0||1-12-2||1.00|
We can see that Zaheer has a significant influence on his team. This is perhaps why we are expecting India to be reliant on Zaheer Khan. It will be intriguing to see how he performs.