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‘I am ready to fire’
Willow Talk : Zaheer Khan

Yuvraj Singh

Do you think you have improved as a player since the 2003 World Cup?

Zaheer Khan: Definitely. The last World Cup was a great learning experience for all of us. We came within one match of winning it. It was a memorable occasion. I am looking forward to doing even better in the 2007 World Cup.

Why in your opinion did we lose the 2003 World Cup final?

Zaheer: Probably, the significance of the occasion got to us. We were over-enthusiastic, and tried too hard. We were not our normal selves. We were so keen to do several things and in the process, lost it.

You have been blamed for conceding 15 runs in the first over and thereby losing momentum. But there were 49 overs left after that, were there not?

Zaheer: Well, it is important to start well, especially in big matches. It would have been better had I bowled normally. I was so keen to do well that I overdid things and made some mistakes. Rather than pitching it on line, which I did in the matches up to the final, I tried to bowl as fast as I could. As a result, I did not pitch it on the right spots.Read moreread more

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Hayden and Gilchrist made it a point to attack you from the very first ball.

Zaheer: They play it that way, that is their style. They always go after the bowlers from the beginning. But as I said, we got carried away and concentrated more on pace than normal line-and-length bowling. We lost the edge we had acquired in the previous games and made it easy for them to go after us.

What about the 2007 World Cup?

Zaheer: I am ready to fire. It has been a good year for me, starting with the County season in England, followed by the tour of South Africa and the one-dayers at home. I think we have had the right kind of preparation. The team is full of energy. It is important to go into a tournament like the World Cup with wins under your belt. We do have them.

You were not a part of the team that toured the West Indies last year. Will that work against you?

Zaheer: I have spoken to the guys who were on that tour. Sreesanth and Ajit have updated me on the conditions, and I did go there with the team in 2002. So I do have hang of the conditions. The wickets had slowed down and resembled those in the sub-continent. But it was really hot there.

What about India's chances?

Zaheer: It will be fantastic if we play as well as we did in 2003. The guys believe that they can. It is a 50-over game and anything can happen. Every team prepares itself thoroughly for an event of this magnitude. This is why you see a lot of upsets happening in the Cricket World Cup or the Football World Cup. You cannot predict anything, only hope that you play well on the given day. The rest is up to God.

The West Indies are hosting the tournament for the first time. Do you think they have a great chance, too?

Zaheer: Why not? They will be playing in front of their own people and we all know how supportive the people in the Caribbean are. They have been playing well recently. In fact, not only the Windies, but every single side will be eager to succeed. To win the World Cup is every cricketer's dream.

What are your views on the Caribbean 'lifestyle?'

Zaheer: Well, I would like to enjoy life the way they do, but only if we do well on the field! For the next two months, it's going to be nothing else but cricket for us. We can consider 'enjoying' ourselves later.

(An exclusive feature for Sify from PMG)

Other interviews:

Viv Richards
Yuvraj Singh
Greg Chappell
S Sreesanth
Sourav Ganguly

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