India news August 21, 2014

Zaheer unlikely for Champions League

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Zaheer Khan: 'I am moving in the right direction'

Zaheer Khan has said that he is unlikely to be fit for the upcoming Champions League Twenty20 in September.

Zaheer told ESPNcricinfo he had only recently started bowling and while his progress has been slow, he is "going in the right direction". Zaheer had sustained a tendon injury in his bowling arm while playing for Mumbai Indians against Kings XI Punjab in the IPL on May 3 at the Wankhede stadium.

Before sustaining the injury, Zaheer had played in South Africa and New Zealand, taking 16 wickets in four Tests at an average of 44. He bowled 195.3 overs. While he did not appear to be the same force as before, Zaheer said he was "very happy" with his comeback.

"It is about how you are impacting the game. I was never an out and out fast bowler," Zaheer said. "I was always dependent on my skill set, how I set up a batsman and how I am making that impact in a spell. If you look at these four games, I did have spells where I got wickets in bulk. I was able to break partnerships, which is the key.

"If the opponents are having a good run, someone needs to put their hand up and break it. I was always there in that scenario and those are the checkpoints for me. I was very happy that I was able to keep up with the workload."

Zaheer has played 92 Tests and 200 ODIs over a 14-year career, but at the age of 35, he is running out of time to make another return to the team and add to that tally. "I like to stay in the present. Control the controllable, it's the best you can do," he said. "I don't really think about the future and what is going to happen and I don't stress about what has already happened.

"I have to just go with how my body is responding and the important thing is for me to play again, I have to bowl at my best. First I have to satisfy myself that I am there and that I can deliver. If I am able to live up to the stress and pressures of international cricket, I'll just take a call at that time."

Zaheer has been exploring business ventures during his forced break but kept a close eye on how India's seam-bowling unit performed in England. He believes the "pressure of playing such a long series" took its toll on the bowlers and losing Ishant Sharma to injury after he bowled India to victory at Lord's was a big setback.

"If someone is bowling well in a long series and is able to create a big impact, that's what we were missing. There are things you learn with experience. The whole bowling unit is very young. At this level it is important that you get into a good routine and manage yourself well."

Zaheer said India would not improve their record overseas unless the batsmen started making bigger contributions. "I have always felt that if you score 350 runs in the first innings then you are always in the game. If you don't achieve that then you are always catching up with the game," he said. "The success we had overseas in the past, the key was that we put the runs on the board. Then we won that battle, and then you went and got those wickets as well."

After the home season, during which India will play five ODIs and three Tests against West Indies, another trial by fire awaits them in Australia. Zaheer said understanding the difference between the behaviour of the Duke ball in England and the Kookaburra in Australia would be crucial to India's performance.

"With the Duke ball, you can get away with not using the new ball well, as it can start swinging after 10 or 15 overs, as opposed to the Kookaburra ball which goes dead in the same time," he said. "In a Test match, it's always about knowing when to attack and when to hold on and wait for the right moment to come on."

Zaheer believed the issue of the appointment of a new support staff and speculation over the future of head coach Duncan Fletcher had been blown out of proportion. "You can have all kind of support staff, they are there to help you, to guide you, but at the end of the day the responsibility is of the individual to make sure that they contribute."

Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75

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