Mumbai Indians [ Images ] fast bowler Zaheer Khan [ Images ] believes fast bowlers will play a key role in the upcoming third season of the Indian Premier League [ Images ], starting in Mumbai on March 12.
"I think bowling is important. If you see in the last auction as well, all the teams were going for genuine fast bowlers, because everyone now feels the importance of fast bowlers upfront due to the Powerplay.
"A good bowler can definitely increase the chances of giving an early breakthrough, which definitely restricts opponents from getting off to good starts. With the first six overs of Powerplay rule it is very important for the bowling side to get that early wicket," Zaheer said in Mumbai on Wednesday.
The left-arm fast bowler said the new ruling of strategy breaks of two-and-half minutes to be taken by the fielding captain between overs six and eight gives the bowling team an advantage.
"If you look at the last IPL, whenever there was a break there was a good chance of getting a wicket after that. A lot of teams lost a wicket or two after the break, so definitely it works in the favour of the fielding team, because you can change the momentum of the game.
"And since it is in the hands of the fielding captain, he can decide when he wants to take that break. It helps to change the momentum, because sometimes when the batting team is going after the bowlers, it is good to get together," he said.
The fourth season of the IPL will have the addition of two new teams. And though all the players will go back into the auction later this year for the forthcoming seasons, Zaheer is of the opinion that the players will not be under extra pressure to perform and impress the various franchises in order to get a hefty contract.
"Every IPL is important because you want your team to do well. Every cricketer wants to end up on the winning side rather than the losing side. So, we are just looking at it just as a game. As a cricketer, I am looking at it as an important tournament and want to do well; I want my team to do well.
"As a cricketer, you are just looking at performing and using any opportunity thrown at you. So that is the way everyone will be looking at it. It is a given that if you do well you will be recognised. A lot of franchises will be after you, but the bottom line is you got to perform and focus on your cricket," he said.
Despite picking up an injury during last year's IPL, Zaheer stressed he will not take it easy.
"I love playing cricket. Injuries, I feel, are part and parcel of the game. I enjoy playing all the formats of the game."
All the Indian players, he added, are excited to be playing the IPL in front of home fans.
"Everyone is excited. The wickets are going to be different and the par score is going to be different in India. We all are very excited that we don't have to travel outside the country this time for the IPL, which was the case last year. We are happy to be home right now."
Zaheer, who is Mumbai Indians' vice-captain, is hoping Kieron Pollard can work up some magic with the bat and lift the team in the upcoming season.
"Pollard is definitely an exciting prospect. He has really developed and everyone is kind of recognizing his hitting talent, because he is a hard hitter of the ball. I am looking forward to meeting him in person and playing with him in the Mumbai Indian team.
"We hope that he brings some luck and wins a lot of matches for Mumbai Indians," he said.
Photograph: Leeladhar B