Lakshmipathy Balaji, the Indian fast bowler, says he is ready to take a fitness test this week to be in contention for the tour to West Indies. Balaji has not played international cricket since August 2005 due to a stress fracture of the back, but hopes to be in the Test side that will be announced after the third one-day international at St. Kitt's on May 23.
"It is a challenge. You have to face up to it. I am to be tested for match fitness by Indian team trainer John Gloster in Mumbai next week. If everything goes well, I will be in contention for a place [for the West Indies tour]," Balaji said while at the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai. "Everything is going as per plan. Doctors in Melbourne told me that I should be bowling again in May second week. I am now to prove my match fitness to Gloster."
Balaji's injury woes began in India's tour to England in 2004, following which he was out of action for almost a year. Nine wickets in three Tests against Pakistan at home in early 2005, a comeback series in which he displayed appreciable control and swing, were followed by an indifferent ODI series in Sri Lanka after which he was dropped and faced a recurrence of the injury.
Choosing not to comment on his axing from the side, Balaji said the injury had played a bigger role in his being sidelined. "It was stress fracture of the lower back, which surfaced last November. It could not be properly diagnosed here," Balaji said. "But Dr John Graham of Melbourne, where I spent 20 days, advised me against surgery."
Having rehabilitated himself over the months since his last appearance for India, Balaji believed he had come a full circle and was confident of a spot in the West Indies, where India will play four Tests.