Zaheer targets Australia's swing weakness
Australia's difficulties against the swinging ball, to be addressed by a remedial batting clinic in Melbourne next week, have offered a tonic to Zaheer Khan and the India bowling attack.
Zaheer is not playing in the Indians' opener against a Cricket Australia Chairman's XI, but he spoke enthusiastically of his preparation for the upcoming Test series against batsmen unnerved by the sort of swerve his bowling can possess.
"It is definitely encouraging as a bowling unit [that Australia are struggling against swing], our strength as Indians has always been swinging the ball," Zaheer said. "That's what we're going to rely on here as well, even though the wickets here will offer bounce, we'll still be trying to use the swing of the ball, so hopefully we'll be able to extract some swing in the matches to come.
"As a bowler it is all about getting into the right areas. If you're hitting the right lengths and able to get the ball moving then you're going to trouble any batsman in the world if you get those channels going."
Zaheer, 33, has not played for India since suffering a hamstring tear in the first Test of the series against England at Lord's in July, and subsequently underwent ankle surgery, which made his selection for Australia conditional on the basis of some solid Ranji Trophy appearances. Having fulfilled the selectors' wishes, he is now on course to lead the line against Australia.
"I've definitely had a lot more time to prepare as far as this series is concerned," he said. "I feel I've done everything possible to get here, and very happy with the way things are going personally for me. Happy with my rhythm in the nets and a bit of match practice will help me.
"It was a long flight for us so it is important we get into rhythm. I got to see a bit of bowling, I am happy with the way the whole approach has been, and I'm looking forward to playing the next one myself."
The need for Zaheer to be fit is increased by the fact that Ishant Sharma's left ankle may again be giving him grief, though loose ankle strapping was the explanation offered by a team official for a brief and interrupted appearance at the bowling crease on day one of the tour match. Wes Robinson, one of two local centurions, said Ishant had bowled well enough in his two brief spells.
"He seemed to be getting through it okay," Robinson said. "He only bowled that one over first up and then I think he went off for some treatment, and then he came back and bowled a few overs, so he got them through okay. Obviously hadn't faced him before so I don't know if that's his quickest or whether he's just warming up into it but he certainly got them through a bit."
Zaheer described Ishant's withdrawal as "just a precautionary measure", and preferred to speak about the promise shown by Umesh Yadav, who took three wickets on a batsmen's day.
"It is very good to see someone bowling like that, I've been mentioning back in India it is good to see him bowl 140kph plus, which is really important. I'm sure the wickets here are going to suit his style of bowling because the wickets are going to provide that extra bit of bounce.
"It is still early days for him, and the more he plays the more he is going to learn, so it is all about exposure at this level, and I'm sure with time he'll learn more things."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo