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'Can't afford a 50% fit Zaheer in Australia' - Ganguly

December 3, 2011

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Zaheer Khan is pumped up after Michael Vaughan's wicket, England v India, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 1st day, July 27, 2007
Sourav Ganguly: "The BCCI has planned his [Zaheer Khan's] schedule well." © Getty Images
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Sourav Ganguly, the former India captain, has said Zaheer Khan, India's spearhead, must continue to work on his fitness before the start of the Test series in Australia. Zaheer was out of cricket between August and November due to injury, and was conditionally selected for the Australia series that begins with the Boxing Day Test.

"I feel that Zaheer is still not 100% fit and we can't afford to have a 50% fit Zaheer Khan in Australia," Ganguly said during an event in Delhi. "For India, Zaheer still needs to play a lot more matches and for that he needs to be fully fit. One Ranji Trophy game is not enough.

"There are still [some] days left [before the Tests] and I believe he will play another Ranji game as well as two practice matches in Australia. The BCCI has planned his schedule well, unlike ten years ago when I had to appear for a fitness test only ten days prior to an important tour."

Zaheer had injured his right hamstring on the first day of the England-India Test series this summer, before a recurring ankle injury re-surfaced later during the tour, forcing Zaheer out of the series. He underwent ankle surgery and made a return to competitive cricket on November 29, when he played a Ranji Trophy match for Mumbai in Cuttack. He bowled 22 overs in the match, over two innings, and took four wickets.

Ganguly also said R Ashwin, the offspinner who took 22 wickets in his debut Test series, against West Indies, will face a much tougher challenge in Australia. "Ashwin is a gifted cricketer. But bowling in India with SG balls against an inconsistent West Indies batting line-up is completely different from bowling with Kookaburra balls. Also the quality of batsmanship will certainly be higher [in Australia]."

India faced another injury setback with medium-pacer Praveen Kumar being ruled out of the Tests in Australia earlier this week because of a fractured rib. His replacement will be named on December 5, and Ganguly said the decision should be carefully weighed.

"We should have a good young pacer whoever it is. As far as Irfan [Pathan] is concerned, I have heard that he is bowling well [in the Ranji Trophy] but my question would be whether he is good enough to get into the team on his bowling alone.

"Ashish [Nehra] is also getting wickets which is a good sign. I don't think that not being centrally contracted [Nehra was not in the BCCI's list of centrally contracted players released in October] is an issue. He is only 32 and can still play for India for some time."

Ganguly scored his first first-class century in two years this week, for Bengal against Haryana in the Ranji Trophy. The four-day match, though, ended in a draw. With draws in the tournament not being uncommon, Ganguly said its structure could do with a review. "I know there are times when the second innings becomes immaterial. Certainly we need to look at the possibility of whether we can make it a five-day affair."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by itsthewayuplay on (December 4, 2011, 17:49 GMT)

@passionate_cricket_follower I don't have any information on that and it's irrelevant as it's in the past. What about question on the politics in what he said on the challenge facing Ashwin in Aus?

Posted by passionate_cricket_follower on (December 4, 2011, 13:58 GMT)

@ itsthewayuplay: he downplayed regionalism all right, but trust me he was one of the most political captains. he had a lobby of younger players to back him when he was "out of form" for eternity!

Posted by Johnny_129 on (December 4, 2011, 13:43 GMT)

Agree with Ganguly's view's regarding a fully fit Zak. PK's injury could be a blessing in disguise because Irfan Pathan seems to have found decent form and is fast rising up - he may well be at peak when the Oz tour arrives. Irfan Pathan certainly has the skill, experience and proven record - I can't think of any other pace bowler who should get the vacant spot ahead of Irfan Pathan.

Posted by Empty-Sequence on (December 4, 2011, 12:59 GMT)

To all the guys who are backing for irfan for the tour of australia......his av. speed against haryana and delhi was 119 k/h.... He even failed to touch 130km. How can u guys expect him leave an impact against the likes of pointin, hussey & clarke. He will become one more laughing stock in front of the world.

Posted by mickar on (December 4, 2011, 12:17 GMT)

Ganguly is right, we need a 100% fit Zak, even if he misses the first one or two test. He and the physio should make the decision. As far as the replacement for praveen is concerned, the best two in contention are irfan and nehra(form and experience). Hope selectors pick irfan, we badly need a pace bowling allrounder in australia. Our spin bowling allrounders are not of much use (ie, their bowling ) downunder.

Posted by satish619chandar on (December 4, 2011, 12:14 GMT)

Its true but now we know that Zaheer MIGHT be available and are better prepared whereas in England, we did believe he IS available and banked on him.. A half fit Zak is good to be persisted with as he can be fully fit anytime.. Des Dada remember the last Australian tour where we picked a semifit Viru who staged a come back in third test and saved the match with a rare responsible innings?

Posted by Aussasinator on (December 4, 2011, 10:58 GMT)

Do people agree with me if I say that I sense a certain bitterness in Saurav Ganguly even now, and he can't seem to get over his being left out of India's scheme of things? His comments have never been fully in favour of india and he seems to love giving ideas to opposition teams, especially Australia. Has anybody else noticed this?

Posted by AbhiNaik on (December 4, 2011, 10:23 GMT)

Typical Ganguly. A player who was never himself 100% fit but has the audacity to comment on Zaheer. Btw a 50% fit Zaheer will run faster than Ganguly did in his prime.

Posted by AbhiNaik on (December 4, 2011, 10:18 GMT)

Typical Ganguly. A player who was never himself 100% fit but has the audacity to comment on Zaheer. Btw a 50% fit Zaheer will run faster than Ganguly did in his prime. Hope Dhoni breaks his record of most test victories asap.

Posted by NRI- on (December 4, 2011, 4:29 GMT)

Nathan L:yon is getting wickets in Australia so why not Ashwin?

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