Royal Challengers Bangalore pace bowler Harshal Patel has revealed that Zaheer Khan's knuckle balls and the potent slower ones he bowled during the 2011 World Cup were what inspired him to take up pace bowing in his formative years.
The 31-year-old Patel, who had emerged the Purple Cap winner in IPL 2021 with 32 wickets from 15 matches, far ahead of the likes of Avesh Khan (24 wickets) and India mainstay Jasprit Bumrah (21 wickets), added that watching Zaheer bowl was an "education" for him as he tried to mould his bowling for the T20 format.
Patel is currently joint 13th with three others on 10 wickets (8 matches) in IPL 2022 as he aims to match his last season's performance. He has been shouldered with the onus of bowling the death overs, a problem that had plagued RCB for a while before Harshal, with his many variations and his ability to out-think a batsman, has solved to a large extent.
Speaking about his idol when it comes to the slower balls, Harshal said, "I think if I have to look at one person who sort of legitimised slower balls, it was Zaheer Khan in the 2011 World Cup. The way he got people out with those knuckle balls was unbelievable to watch. I got my education in T20 bowling from him."
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Patel then disclosed his journey with RCB.
"I started with RCB in 2012, when he (Zaheer) used to be with us. He used to come up to me every single ball and tell me what to bowl. He would keep on telling me 'bowl length, bowl this, bowl that'. He would advise me not to bowl the slower one frequently. He used to tell me how to package it," Patel revealed on an episode of Breakfast with Champions.
"I remember when we were playing in Pune and he had told me not to bowl the slower ball. I bowled a slower one to Robin Uthappa and he hit it for a six over mid-wicket. He walked towards me and with all the other ineffable things that he would utter, he also said 'Did I not tell you to not bowl the slower one then?'" Harshal recalled.
When asked whether Zaheer is proud of his achievements, Harshal said, "I met him in the last season after the game. He said 'Everything is going well, how much more do you want to change things?'"