India in Australia 2011-12 December 9, 2011

Zaheer wants to make a difference in Australia


Zaheer Khan, the India medium-pacer, has said he is fit and wants to make a difference on his third tour of Australia, where he has not managed to complete a Test series because of injury. Zaheer played only three Tests on India's trips to Australia in 2003-04 and 2007-08.

"This tour is very important. I want to be the factor which makes the difference as there are so many expectations on me," Zaheer said after Mumbai's Ranji Trophy match against Saurashtra ended in Rajkot. "I think I have done enough to get on that flight [to Australia]. And now the next step is to fulfill all those expectations."

Zaheer completed his second Ranji match in successive weeks for Mumbai after deciding to test his fitness. The national selectors had named him as the 17th member India's Test squad to Australia, subject to Zaheer proving he was fit.

On July 21 at Lord's, the first day of the Pataudi Trophy, Zaheer pulled his right hamstring in the third over of his third spell. Those 13.3 overs were last he bowled in a Test on that tour of England. He bowled three overs in the warm-up game against Northamptonshire but was ruled out of the remainder of the series because of an ankle injury in addition to the hamstring. Zaheer had ankle surgery and returned to competitive cricket only two weeks ago, when Mumbai played Orissa in Cuttack between November 29 and December 1.

Against Orissa, Zaheer bowled 22 overs and took 4 for 52 in the match. Mumbai won by an innings and 210 runs. He said he felt good after that game but needed to work on his "bowling rhythm".

In Rajkot, Zaheer had to toil on a flatter pitch against tougher opposition. His match figures of 21-2-82-3 comprised five short spells across two days and he was in the field for 170 overs.

"This match it was much better," Zaheer said about his rhythm. "The more I bowl the better I am going to get. I have bowled around 40-45 overs in the two games. That was the whole idea; I wanted to build it up. What was important was to spend a lot of time on the field. And not by choice, but we managed to spend 170 overs on the field, which was good in a way for me, in terms of getting that lethargy out and getting the feel of it, as that is what Test match cricket is all about."

When asked what he meant by bowling rhythm, Zaheer said, " [It] all has to come together. Physically I am fine, I am not feeling anything wrong. But I wanted to bowl more to get the co-ordination going in terms of my bowling.

"I have done everything possible in discussion with the physios. We chalked out this plan. So far I have been achieving the milestones about eight to ten days before they were to be delivered. That is what the plan was: when I am boarding that flight [to Australia] there are no doubts in my mind whether I am going be able to bowl 20 overs, whether I am going to be able to come back."

On his previous trips to Australia, Zaheer returned home injured without completing the tours. In 2003-04, he missed the second Test due to a hamstring injury, played the third, though it later emerged that he was not fully fit, and then missed the final Test. Four years later, Zaheer took five wickets during India's 337-run defeat at the MCG. On the eve of the Sydney Test, however, he hurt his left heel during practice and flew home.

On this tour, Zaheer has the responsibility of leading an inexperienced bowling attack. Among the other bowlers, only Ishant Sharma has played internationals in Australia. "The way I see it, it all worked out perfectly fine, because I had a four-month break so I could prepare well for this series. In the past, it used to be at the end of the season that I would go to Australia and breakdown. So I am really looking forward to joining the team and to playing my part, and also to helping the youngsters and guiding them in whatever way I can.

Zaheer was encouraged by the pace of the younger fast bowlers, such as Umesh Yadav, in India's squad. "You have seen them bowl at 140-plus kph, which is a good sign. They must enjoy their bowling because it is the early part of their international career. That should work in our favour because you have an experienced bowler in Ishant, and Umesh who is young and is hostile in his approach right now."

The first Test begins on Boxing Day at the MCG and Zaheer said it was important for the bowlers to get used to the bounce in Australia during the two warm-up games. "As far as pitches are concerned there will be bounce on offer," he said. "That is one thing we would have to deal with. Our bowlers need to get use to the bounce and you need to hit the right lengths as early as possible and make use of the practice matches for that."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nampally on December 12, 2011, 19:53 GMT

    @Naresh28: Yes India made mistakes in selection for 2 injured players from the original squad. Rahul Sharma & Irfan Pathan should have been the replacements. These 2 are potential players to be in XI. Rahul is an ideal bowler for the Australian wickets. I would rate him #1 Indian spinner in OZ land above Ashwin & Ojha. Rahul is accurate, bowls fast >90 KPH, for a leg spinner, has a googly,top spinner & is ouncy. Why on earth India dropped him is a mystery.He was the man of the hour. Irfan is an all rounder & an excellent fielder. His inclusion will mean a batsmen @#7 + good swing bowler+ excellent fielder.The Selectors had 2 chances to include these 2 but they failed.Now India XI has to be 7 batsmen + 3 seamers + 1 spinner. There is no chance for a second spinner unless one of the seamers or a batsman is dropped - both unwise moves.If Selectors had a plan of playing XI, they could not have made such blatant mistakes - No all rounders. Mithun & Vinay are bench guys - for injuries.

  • Naresh28 on December 12, 2011, 15:03 GMT

    @dravid_gravitas I agree with the five bowler policy. Except instead of one spinner take two spinners (our strength)If ZAKS fails due to fitness, the selectors will have to turn to IRFAN PATHAN. Play Zaks, Ishant, Yadav, Ohja and Ashwin. It is a pity Rahul Sharma is not selected in the squad to Oz he is a wicket taking bowler. tradionally India has gone in with 4 bowlers One of Laxman, Dravid, or Tendulkar should make skip a game so that Rohit blends in with the two seniors in eachj of the games.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 11, 2011, 15:15 GMT

    India SHOULD go with 5 bowlers - 4 pacers and 1 spinner. Ashwin is no regular tailender. He bats really well after coming so down in the order. That should help us in going in with 5 batsmen + Dhoni.

  • dummy4fb on December 11, 2011, 14:34 GMT

    Nagrag Goolapudi the author of this article has got it wrong Zac is not a medium pace bowler, last I checked he bowled fast/medium...... Correct me if I am wrong.

  • Lord_Tendulkar on December 11, 2011, 13:20 GMT

    Zaheer when fit is a class bowler and troubles left handers a lot so should be a handful bowler in Aussie conditions that favour fast bowlers...Ishant was superb in Australia and the conditions will support him too..Yadav has pace and will get good bounce...should be a fun contest in Australia given their weak bowling this time !!

  • RandyOZ on December 11, 2011, 8:11 GMT

    I rate Zaheer but I don't see him lasting more than a test. The rest of the pace attack without Praveen is useless. Ashwin is a danger though.

  • manisacumen on December 11, 2011, 3:36 GMT

    No doubt our bowling resources are thin. We need our batsmen to score mammoth everytime. Sehwag and Gambhir have to get the double tons alternately. They are crucial to india's success or failure. India have the best batting opening pair for the first time in australia after 1986. Gauti and viru have to be at their best and their failure (both at the same time) means india will surely fail. The fab3 at the twilight of their career cannot come good once too often.

    I still predict a 4-0 win for india based on our batting strength and hoping that Zak, ishant and Umesh destroy the aussies along with ashwin. I would back ashwin for the lone spinner ahead of ojha. We need tailender batsman also

  • NRI- on December 11, 2011, 1:38 GMT

    Aaron, India's fastest bowler, should be given a chance to show his fitness again in two weeks time so he can still get there in time for the 2nd test. Yadav, Aaron, Zaheer and Ashwin would have been the perfect attack. Australia's fastest, Cummins, is also injured so that evens it out.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 11, 2011, 1:13 GMT

    If Zaheer is fit, he'll be a menace to the present Aussies who are struggling. I hope he isn't lying. He would have been a menace to the English as well. Well, we can't change the past. But at least we can plan for the future. I hope he is really fit.

  • crindo77 on December 10, 2011, 19:11 GMT

    Ironically, in this young Indian team, the best examples of fitness are to be found in its ageing stars. Sachin, nearly 40, playing NON STOP for the last 22 years. Dravid late thirties, playing for the last 14. Still fit. Elsewhere, Wasim Akram, a DIABETIC, amazing fitness. Kapil Dev, ditto. Varun Aaaron, one test, what... 3 ODIs, and he's already got MAJOR injury problems. Ashwin already looks a bit plump in his midriff; and he's running like the 2nd Inzamam. After 2 years we will be back to Bharti Aruns era.

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