Can’t go to Australia without match practice: Zaheer

New Delhi : India’s pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who is recovering from a hamstring and ankle injury, admits he can’t go to Australia without any match practice like happened during the series in England.

The 33-year-old left-arm pacer said Friday that he would like to test his fitness in a couple of Ranji Trophy matches before thinking of playing international cricket. The Australia tour, comprising four Tests and a triangular series also involving Sri Lanka, starts next month.

“I have started bowling at the nets. I have some improvements in the past two weeks. I am feeling good, and I am only building up towards match fitness. I am preparing to get 100 percent match fit before thinking about the Australia tour. I will start with Ranji Trophy matches,” said Zaheer, who was undergoing rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore.

The speedster, however, said that he was eager to be a part of the Australia series.

“I have never been part of a full tour of Australia, so I want to play the full series this time around,” he said, during a promotional event here.

Asked when would he be seen in action for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, Zaheer said: “I haven’t taken a call on that. I have been doing full session at the nets and will take a call in consultation with the physio at the NCA. But surely I shall play a Ranji Trophy matches soon to test my fitness.”

Zaheer was ruled out of the England series after he pulled up a hamstring bowling just 13.3 overs, also picking up two wickets, in the first Test at the Lord’s against England in July. He immediately underwent an surgery in England in July for an ankle impingement on his right foot. Since then he has been recuperating at the NCA.

Zaheer missed the ODI series that followed and also was also left out from the squad for the return ODI series at home and the ongoing Test series against the West Indies.

Zaheer came to England without any match-practice. Prior to the England series, his last international match was the World Cup final, April 2, after which he played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) but he skipped India’s tour of the West Indies with an ankle problem.

In Zaheer’s absence, young pacers Ishant Sharma and debutant Umesh Yadav did well in India’s five-wicket win over the West Indies at the Ferozeshah Kotla here Wednesday.

Asked how he felt the young pacers’ performance, Zaheer said: “It is a positive sign for Indian cricket. I was watching the play that morning (second day) and it was heartening to see Umesh bowl in that channel. They have the pace.”

Zaheer also feels that fast bowler Varun Aaron, who picked up three wickets on his ODI debut, doesn’t need to cut down in his pace.

“It is a good to see a youngster bowling so fast. He has raw pace. I don’t think there is any need for Varun to cut down on his speed. He is young and will learn soon,” he said.

Zaheer also hoped that batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar would get his 100th international century soon.

“You always expect a century from Sachin. He will score, but the question is when,” he said.

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