Zaheer included in squad for Aus tour

Paceman Zaheer Khan, who has bowled just three overs in a competitive environment since limping off the field on the first day of the first Test against England at Lord’s on July 21, has been named in the squad subject to proving his match fitness, the Board of Control for Cricket in India press release said on Saturday.

After hobbling off at Lord’s in the first Test against England with hamstring and ankle injuries, Zaheer hasn’t played in a competitive match since. In the interim, he bowled three exploratory overs against Northamptonshire in a two-day match on August 6 which were enough to convince him that there was no way he could continue the tour.
The 33-year-old has had ankle surgery and the speed of his rehabilitation has surprised everyone. Zaheer will play forMumbai in the Ranji Trophy against Orissa in Cuttack from November 29 to assess where stands from a match-fitness perspective. Should he come through unscathed, he could also play in another Ranji game against Saurashtra in Rajkot from December 6 before emplaning for Australia.

Medium-pacer Praveen Kumar returns after missing the home Test series against the West Indies, as does Wriddhiman Saha as the second wicket-keeper. Ajinkya Rahane is the third opener and Rohit Sharma the additional middle-order batsman with Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s panel covering all bases.

“It’s the dream of every Indian to win a Test series in Australia,” Srikkanth said later. “Jimmy (Mohinder Amarnath), (Narendra) Hirwani and myself have all played there. The three of us, as well as Surendra Bhave and Raja Venkat, put our heads together to come up with a squad that is in form, that has been performing well and that is well balanced in all the departments.”

The overwhelming successes on largely unresponsive tracks of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, plus his own lack of wickets in the Ranji Trophy, have left Harbhajan Singh languishing on the sidelines. In any case, the experienced off-spinner has a modest record in Australia, taking just nine wickets in four Tests at an average in excess of 70 and a strike rate of a wicket every 21 overs.

The squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag (vice-capt), Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sa­c­h­in Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojya, Pra­veen Kumar, Varun Aaron, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha.

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