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Pitching it right with Zaheer Khan

The former India cricketer reveals the joys of playing sport and its lessons for life

Kunal Purandare
Published: Mar 29, 2016 06:54:03 AM IST
Updated: Mar 29, 2016 08:11:47 AM IST
Pitching it right with Zaheer Khan
Image: (Illustration) Chaitanya Surpur

He is that rare Indian cricketer who could make the new ball talk. He has run through famed batting lineups with his fierce seam bowling. His years of toil and doggedness brought him 610 wickets across formats, the fourth-highest for any Indian. The six-footer leftie, who bagged a five-for in his last international outing in 2015, tells Forbes India what kept him ticking through the highs and lows.

You’ve got to have the passion
That’s the most important ingredient. Then it’s just about following your dream and making sure that you do everything in your capacity to achieve that. Also, there is no substitute for hard work. You have to keep evolving and believing in yourself, that you can do it. I was very driven [in my career] and cricket gave me a high that nothing else could match. So, I kept going.

Stay grounded
It’s very important to stay level-headed. After I made my debut, my brother told me that it’s very easy to reach the top, but to stay there is the toughest part. I was lucky to get that kind of advice and support from my family. If I was in poor form or had a layoff, I would go back to the basics. I used to tell myself that if you have done it once at this level, there is no reason why you can’t do it again. You need to have a positive approach.

Learn life lessons
One of the good things about being involved in any game is that it teaches you how to deal with certain situations in life as well. It develops your personality and brings to the fore a winning attitude; it teaches you to never give up. You bring the competitive edge that you have on the field into your life. You are more optimistic about turning things around and you look at difficulties as challenges that you need to overcome. And you learn to share others’ success when you are part of a team. You become a better person.  

Pressure is healthy

With pressure comes responsibility. I enjoyed going to sleep carrying the expectations of doing well for your country, of providing that early breakthrough, of being the leader of the pack. I did not even think of the lows. Even when I was preparing for games, I would not watch anything but the good balls that I bowled. That’s the way I have approached my life and career. I focus on what I want to achieve and go for it. After all, I am what I am because of cricket.

Mind and body matter
People should give more importance to healthy living and outdoor sports. As children, we are active, but as we grow old, we find ourselves trapped in hectic lifestyles. We don’t spend enough time playing sport and pay less attention to fitness. It should be the other way round. ProSport (his fitness and strength training centre) has always been my dream project. It’s part of a ‘Fit India’ movement which can shorten the journey towards your goals. In India, there is need for this kind of a setup where you approach fitness in a holistic manner.

(In this series, we talk to entreprenuers and celebrities, artists and musicians, about what they need to be who they are.)

(This story appears in the Mar-Apr 2016 issue of ForbesLife India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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