India fast bowler Varun Aaron, whose career has been plagued with injuries, is working towards attaining match fitness in time for the Ranji Trophy with a "slight adjustment" to his bowling action. He hopes the tweak will help him last the entire domestic season.
Aaron has been an almost permanent fixture at the National Cricket Academy ever since he was withdrawn from India's squad for the Test series in Australia in 2011-12. Though he returned for a short stint during IPL 2012 where he featured in eight games for Delhi Daredevils, he suffered a recurrence of a back injury.
As a result, the Jharkhand bowler, who keeps ferrying between Bangalore and Pune, where his family is now based, hasn't played a competitive game for more than 15 months. Still, he had a wide smile on his face on Thursday.
"The injury has started healing now. I have started bowling again," he told ESPNcricinfo. "Obviously it would take me a little time to start bowling at full throttle, but I have been trying to build on pace slowly as I progress."
Aaron has had a frustrating last year. Owing to the injuries, Aaron hasn't had a first-class outing since his Test debut in November 2011, and when the recurrence of his back injury was noticed in July 2012, he, along with the physios at the NCA, had expected the wound to heal in about four months. However, in November, it was found that the wound had been infected.
"I consulted a surgeon in England who advised me that surgery was the best option and we went ahead with it in March. Since then, my back has held up pretty well. I would be naive to say that I am not frustrated. It's been quite disappointing to have been out of action for so long but I am positive that the worst is behind me and once I get back on to the field, I am sure I would be able to enjoy my cricket even more."
Aaron has not thought about cutting down on pace, his key weapon, but he has made a slight modification to his bowling action for which he credits Bharat Arun, NCA's outgoing head of bowling unit, and V Venkatram, who was relieved of his duties as bowling coach earlier in the year.
"I would call it a minor adjustment. They suggested I should open up my landing foot while bowling, and it has really helped."
When Aaron rose through the ranks, he and Umesh Yadav were marked as the potential leaders of India's pace attack. However, Aaron's injury setbacks have meant he has lagged way behind in the race for sealing a bowling spot. In fact, he realises he has to start from scratch if he is to make a case for being selected again. But selection is the last thing on his mind for now.
"All that I am thinking about is to be fully fit. The Ranji Trophy season starts in the last week of October and I am hoping to be fit in time for our (Jharkhand¹s) first match," Aaron said. "The next objective would be to remain injury-free for the entire domestic season and then we will take it from there."
A fit Aaron will give more options to the selectors for India's tough year ahead. With tours to South Africa, New Zealand and England lined up in the next seven months, the team's pacers are likely to be stretched to their fullest. If Aaron can indeed last the full domestic season, one would not be surprised if he is part of the tours to either New Zealand or South Africa.
As three of India's pace bowlers - Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar - have been going through the paces in what is their routine fitness assessment at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, they would be heartened to see the manner in which Aaron is shaping up for having a crack towards regaining his spot in the national team.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo