India news August 24, 2013

'My fitness has let me down' - Zaheer

ESPNcricinfo staff

Zaheer Khan, the India pace bowler, has admitted fitness has been a major issue holding him back in recent times. Getting fitter, he said, was his focus of late, and that could help him regain his place in the Indian team.

"Everybody wants to represent the country. If I am fit and can meet the demands, things should fall in place," Zaheer told DNA on his return from a fitness-training stint in France. "My fitness has let me down and I have been working on it. My next big test would be the domestic season, the Ranji Trophy. I want to get back into the Indian team."

Zaheer was dropped from the Test team in December last year, during the home series against England that India lost. His last limited-overs international was in October 2012. He played a couple of Ranji games for Mumbai after being ignored for the final Test against England, but then picked up a calf injury that forced him out of the knockout stages of the tournament and the Irani Cup. He was out of action for over four months, before returning to competitive cricket in the final stages of the IPL.

While he was injured during the Australia Tests in February, he was unlikely to be picked for the matches on form, as India blooded several young players and went on to sweep Australia 4-0. Zaheer said the competition for places in the Test XI would only benefit Indian cricket. "Competition only helps you do your best. There is no threat. Youngsters doing well is a good sign for Indian cricket. And if the seniors do the same, then you become a champion side."

Allrounder Yuvraj Singh, who had also trained in France with Zaheer after being sidelined from the Indian team, said the seniors should not be forgotten though.

Speaking to the media on his return from France, Yuvraj said: "I am very happy with the way the youngsters have been performing. But it is the balance of seniors and youngsters that makes a team strong.

"With or without me, India should select the best XI. [But] I believe that a team should be a blend of youth and experience. I am not saying that past success should be taken into account while selecting a present team but one shouldn't forget what we have achieved for the country."

Yuvraj, who was dropped from the Test side at the same time as Zaheer and did not feature in the Champions Trophy in June, has the 2015 World Cup at the back of his mind. His immediate focus though, is returning to international cricket. "The 2015 World Cup is very far, we still have a year-and-a-half for the World Cup. But it remains a part of my goal and I want to make it happen. But my immediate goal is to play for India as soon as possible. For that I have to play as much cricket as I can before the Challenger [Trophy]."

The Challenger Trophy, which features the premier one-day talent in the country, is scheduled to begin on September 26, the curtain-raiser for the 2013-14 domestic season.