Zak has a mission to complete in Oz

While India did manage to put it past the West Indies 2-0 in the three-match series at home even without him, the significance of having Zaheer the bowler and Zaheer the bowling captain isn’t lost on anyone when the team goes overseas, and especially to a country like Australia.

Zaheer will prove his match-readiness during Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy game against Orissa starting in Cuttack on Tuesday, an outing that will give the team management a better idea of where he stands at the moment.

“It’s not as if we are looking for anything specific from him, he is in the best position to judge,” skipper MS Dhoni said on Saturday. “Zak has been giving his 100 percent. Whenever he does some kind of rehab, he does it really well. We are hoping he is 100 percent fit for the Australian series. Once he goes and plays in the first-class game, that will judge to some extent where he feels he is.”

Zaheer had bowled at the Indian nets last Sunday, two days before the start of the final Test against the West Indies.

VVS Laxman is Zaheer’s unofficial batting coach, and the two soft-spoken men share a great rapport. “Zaheer’s progress has been brilliant,” Laxman had said a couple of days back. “Talking with the physio, he said Zaheer was one week to ten days ahead of where he should have been in his recovery (from ankle surgery). He has lost a lot of weight from the last time I saw him in England. I think it is a good sign, he is keen to do well in Australia. Everyone knows the importance of that series and the importance of Zaheer being in the side.”

The onus will now be on the paceman himself, who is desperate to complete a tour of Australia – something he didn’t manage in 2003-04 or 2007-08 – and acquit himself with credit in a country where he has not been able to parade his wares with any success.

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