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TA Sekar recalls the making of Zaheer Khan at the inauguration of the Leap Cricket Academy

Former India International pacer TA Sekar is widely known for his contribution in shaping Indian fast bowling during his tenure as the bowling coach at the MRF Pace Foundation. Indian fast bowlers like Venkatesh Prasad , Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan and Varun Aaron have emerged as prime quicks under his tutelage. He has also served as the director of Delhi Daredevils before stepping down from the post due to personal reasons in November last year.

However, he is gearing up for a completely new innings now as he has been appointed as the principal coach of the newly launched Leap Cricket Academy in Gurugram, Haryana. The Academy aims at providing a platform to budding cricketers from both privileged and unprivileged backgrounds and is starting off by sponsoring 100 proficient players under the mentorship of experienced BCCI approved coaches.

They organized a two day sports camp on 22nd and 23rd September where eminent coaches like Sekar himself, Kiran More, Raghuram Bhatt, Apoorv Desai, Khyati Gulani among others were present.

Sekar spoke on the sidelines of the camp and conveyed his thoughts about the academy and his new role. He thinks that this academy has the capability of fast-tracking the players' potentials with the kind of infrastructure they have.

"Some very good and talented players have enrolled. It is a huge country with an enormous amount of talent. The only thing is that they are not sent through the right channels and right way of coaching. So, that is where they wither away. We have a fantastic infrastructure over here. I think they should utilize this and hone their skills to become better cricketers," said Sekar.

Deepesh Dua, one of the directors of Leap Academy believes that to succeed in a particular field, the individual needs to have a strong base and that is needed to be built right from the grass-root level. He stressed on the importance of getting the right knowledge from right individuals from the very beginning and was confident that his academy can provide that platform to young players as they have hired the right set of coaches for that.

"One of the main things we are focusing on here is to get the right education from the right coaches. We have called in legendary coaches like TA Sekar, Kiran More, Apoorv Desai and Raghuram Bhatt who have coached former and present India international players; so that kids can get the right coaching, right practice from the right individuals. And then if God is kind, the practice and coaching are right, I am sure they will do well," said Dua.

During the chat, Sekar also recalled the first day he saw a young Zaheer Khan. He mentioned how he got a first glimpse of the former India left arm seamer and how the following events and conversation with Dennis Lillee at the MRF Pace Foundation, made him the Indian fast bowling legend that he is today.

"When I first saw Zaheer Khan, he was about to play a West Zone U19 vs North Zone U19 match. He had played for Bombay U19 which meant he had potential. No one can walk into a Mumbai team just like that. And as he was then selected for West zone, it meant he had performed. So, he had all the potential.

"But when I saw him play on the first day, I called him up immediately because I always wanted India to have a left-arm seamer. Dennis(Lillee) was coming in three days time. So, I told him that this boy looks strong, hits the deck hard and does all the things. So, Dennis Lillee came on 17th and on 18th morning, he told that 'I want to see this guy'. So, we had a morning session specially for Zaheer Khan, we saw him for three balls and he said that this guy is going to play for India in the next couple of years. Dennis always had the hunch for good bowlers and he always came and asked me 'Who do you like?'. So, our hunches always matched," Sekar on how they unearthed Zaheer Khan.

The 62-year old was all praise for Zaheer during the conversation. He mentioned how wonderful it was the way Zaheer carried himself as a player both on and off the field over the years. The way he improved as a bowler with time despite losing out on pace due to injuries was something that set him apart from the rest of the Indian fast bowlers of that era.

"He lost his pace a bit but he improved his skills a lot at the same time. He could reverse the ball, he could set a trap for the batsmen at will. So, he became a very brainy bowler which is more dangerous than someone coming and just bowling at pace. He was not a one-dimensional bowler anymore. He had become a multi-dimensional bowler. He became a mentor to other bowlers in the team, a deputy to Dhoni while setting the field and more. So, he developed other skills which made him a great bowler."

Sekar also spoke about how injuries are a part and parcel of a fast bowlers' career. If a bowler is bowling fast for a long period of time, his body is certain to wear down at some point of time. But what matters is how the individual copes with it and how he fills up the void for his lost pace with other skills. He also talked about Mohammad Shami, who according to him is a very good red ball bowler but needs to improve in white ball cricket and also Umesh Yadav who struggles with his consistency despite being the most injury-free Indian quick over the last 6-7 years.

He also conveyed his thoughts on the latest Indian debutant Khaleel Ahmed, "Khaleel is very good. I picked him up in Delhi. He is bowling very well but still has a long way to go; just played one international match. It's all about consistency now and how he carries on from here."

Before signing off, the veteran coach gave a valuable advice to emerging fast bowlers. He stressed on keeping things simple and focusing on two main things, "I feel they have to make it very simple. They don't need to complicate things. There are two things which are very important for fast bowlers: their run-up and their load-up. If they can consistently maintain that, they will be very very good fats bowlers."


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