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Nehra may not be fit for Tests
- Black Caps’ tour of India - Andrew Leipus does not want to ‘rush’ pacer’s return

Bangalore: Left-arm quick Ashish Nehra, who underwent surgery on his right ankle a shade over four months ago, may not be fit for the two-Test home series against New Zealand. The first Test, in Ahmedabad, begins on October 8 and will mark the start of India’s 2003-2004 campaign.

Nehra is training in Phase I of the pre-season conditioning camp here, for the probables, but he hasn’t bowled a single ball since the April 17 surgery in Pretoria. And, talking to The Telegraph on Wednesday afternoon, couldn’t put a date on taking to nets.

The on-going camp is fitness specific.

“I suppose it will take another two-three weeks before I can start bowling. In fact, it could be longer... Then, today, I can’t say how the ankle will respond... Jab tak bowling nahin karunga, pata kaise chalega'” Nehra asked, during our conversation.

For good measure, he quickly added: “In any case, I’ve got to keep the long-term interest in mind as well... The real big series, after all, will be in Australia (later in the year)... Of course, it shouldn’t be construed that I’m not responding well to the rehab programme...”

While Dr Sise Perreira used the scalpel, Nehra’s rehab has been scripted by the Surrey physio, Dayle Naylor. Incidentally, Naylor had done the needful after the quick’s first surgery (in London) on the same ankle, back in 2000. In Bangalore, though, Team India physio Andrew Leipus is overseeing the rehab.

[Besides the surgery-related trip, Nehra has already visited Pretoria twice. Also, he spent well over a month (at a friend's place) in London, at the start of his rehab programme.]

Indeed, Leipus too doesn’t want to “rush” Nehra’s return. “Ashish is responding very well and is working hard at the camp. However, an ankle surgery isn’t an ordinary one and, so, I won’t give the okay (for competitive cricket) till both he and I are satisfied that the ankle can accept the demands of a heavy calendar,” he informed, speaking exclusively.

Given the ground realities, it’s highly unlikely that the national selectors will slot Nehra in one of the three Challenger sides. The selection is slated for next Tuesday, with the tournament scheduled for September 10-14.

It’s not insignificant that after this year’s World Cup, Nehra has become an important member of Team India. Actually, with there being a thick question mark over Jawagal Srinath’s future, our opening attack will surely be heavily dependant on Nehra and Zaheer Khan for some years.

Meanwhile, even Virender Sehwag isn’t hundred per cent fit. An early departure from Leicestershire fuelled speculation that talk of a back injury was really a ‘cover’, but the dasher does have a disc problem and is being “monitored” by Leipus.

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