Will it be happy homecoming?

 Zaheer Khan’s return to his best has fuelled the Challengers’ charge.

The left-arm quick produced his most impressive bowling yet in IPL IV against CSK on Sunday, setting the tone for the Royal Challengers’ comprehensive eight-wicket.
It is encouraging that Zaheer is peaking at the right time. With 11 scalps from 12 matches, he is the second-highest wicket-taker for RCB but more importantly, his improved economy rate of 7.70 is the result of his good performances in the last few matches. 

The 32-year-old, returning after a brief rest, appears a lot fresher and will be keen to leave a lasting impression in Mumbai in the first Qualifier on Tuesday when RCB take on the Super Kings. It’s the first time India’s premier bowler will be bowling at the Wankhede since the World Cup final against Sri Lanka on April 2.

Zaheer’s Mumbai association has been a fascinating one. It’s where he lives but recognition at home has always come a tad late. The boy from Srirampur near here wasn’t picked for the Mumbai Ranji side until he made a name for himself playing for Baroda and, more tellingly, for India.

At the first auction in 2008, Zaheer wasn’t pursued hotly by Mumbai Indians while Royal Challengers, then led by Rahul Dravid, snapped him up gleefully. After the opening edition, Mumbai traded the paceman with Bangalore boy Robin Uthappa. While Zaheer did reasonably well in the last two years, Uthappa oscillated between the stunning and the mediocre but remained an integral part of the RCB set-up.

In the auction earlier this year, Mumbai once again showed no more than a token interest in buying back Zaheer whereas Challengers beat the limited competition to get India’s current best bowler. In the only tilt against the Indians this season in Bangalore, Zaheer had a forgettable day but he would be looking to set the record straight in Mumbai, albeit against different opponents.

On the historic day of April 2 against Sri Lanka, Zaheer produced perhaps his finest first spell in ODIs that read 5-3-6-1. If he can bowl at anywhere close to that performance, RCB will get a head-start.

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