The left-arm fast bowler targets Pakistan series for comeback November 17, 2005

Senior bowlers like Zaheer should be picked, says Nehra


Ashish Nehra: aiming to make a comeback for the Pakistan tour © Getty Images

Ashish Nehra, the Indian left-arm fast bowler, said on Thursday that Greg Chappell, the Indian coach, was right in giving youngsters an opportunity to prove themselves but senior players who have been left out of the team should be given priority if they consistently prove their fitness and form.

Nehra said he did not see any ulterior motive on anyone's part in Zaheer Khan, the fast bowler from Baroda, or any other "senior player" being kept out of the Indian team. "Chappell has come in and has tried out a few youngsters. It is not that he wants anything bad for Indian cricket. He wants good players to come in and be given an opportunity. Nobody is permanent in the team. Senior bowlers like Zaheer Khan, if they do well, should be picked. If not now, later. There is nothing personal with Zaheer Khan. I don't think anyone has a problem with Zaheer. If he is fit and picks wickets, he will be back."

Nehra declared he was targeting the Pakistan series early next year for his comeback into the Indian team after a 'niggle' put him out of action for the past two months. Nehra, who returned home at the end of the tri-series in Zimbabwe after missing the two Tests against the hosts due to a lower back injury, said he did not foresee playing in the Test series against Sri Lanka next month. He also stated that he would be available for the Delhi team from the third game for the Ranji Trophy which he would use to gain 100 percent fitness and form to stake his claim for a place in the Indian squad.

"I am getting better. I haven't started to bowl yet, I would start doing that in 10 days' time from now. I would be playing the third match in the Ranji Trophy. I am looking forward to the Pakistan tour. I don't think I will be completely back to my best before that. I will be playing two or three matches during the Sri Lanka series."

Nehra was conscious of fact that he had to reach peak fitness before he plays Tests again. He began training six weeks ago and has been running and sprinting but was "yet to touch the ball". "For a fast bowler it is not advisable to play straight away in Tests. You need those 30-40 overs to get the rhythm. And on pitches like in Pakistan, you need to be 100 percent fit."

He should know. After an ankle surgery soon after the 2003 World Cup, he was eased directly into the one-day squad and went for 60-odd runs as he bowled his 10 overs on the trot in a tri-series match against Australia at Bangalore. "Yes, I said after the match I should have played some domestic matches and I did play some."

Nehra, however, was aware that the scenario in the Indian team had changed drastically in the two months he had been away, and that it was not going to be easy for him to stake a claim for the Test or ODI team. "It is never easy to get back into the national team. And it is not just me. If someone like Sourav Ganguly can be left out after scoring runs [in domestic cricket] ... Everyone has been performing, so it is going to be tough."