India seeking Zaheer on board for South Africa

He has not played for India since the Kolkata Test against England in December. But, Zaheer is working hard on regaining fitness.

New Delhi: With India's second string seamers coming good in South Africa in the ongoing 'A' tour, it would appear the national selectors have the bowling line-up sorted out for the season.

With Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma the leading candidates for the first XI, there is seemingly nothing to worry.

However, sources say the selectors and the team think-tank want to take Zaheer Khan on the South Africa tour at the year end. It is learnt they have spoken to him and are tracking his fitness.

Comeback hopes
The left-arm paceman has had a series of injuries in the last two years and will turn 35 in October.

He has also not played for India since the Kolkata Test against England in December. But the wily bowler, five short of 300 Test wickets, is working hard on regaining fitness.

"It's an important tour. He is the strike bowler. They feel they need him not just as a bowler but also as mentor," an insider told HT. "On Indian tracks, spinners have been handful and not exposed the pacers. But on this tour, his skill and experience will be needed as the others are relatively inexperienced."

What probably makes him invaluable is the fact that India 'A' are playing on batting strips. If the hosts lay out batting tracks again, India bowlers may struggle against the likes of Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers.

Zaheer Khan brings in his 34th Birthday with Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli (picture courtesy: Yuvraj Singh on Twitter)
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Yahoo Cricket
Mon 8 Oct, 2012 4:30 PM IST

Tough grind
Despite Bhuvneshwar's consistency and Umesh's occasional bursts, India will need to ensure bowling retains the bite through an intense and long series comprising three Tests, seven ODIs and the T20Is, as of now.

"Zaheer has almost always taken care of Graeme Smith. This goes in his favour," the source said. He has dismissed the SA skipper 13 times in 25 matches, including six times each in (nine) Tests and (14) ODIs.

However, he has a history of embarrassing the team by breaking down in major overseas series.

In 2011 in England, he limped off the field in the first Test, leaving MS Dhoni to manage with 10 men.

He even missed most of the 2003-04 Australia tour due to injury. "There is no doubt about his skills. He needs to prove fitness and ensure he doesn't break down."

The Challenger series and Duleep Trophy will be played in September and October.

Zaheer is likely to play some part in it though the Board doesn't want to over-burden him in these matches.