| Sourav Ganguly at the SSC during Zaheer Khan’s fitness test on Thursday
Colombo: Zaheer Khan underwent a 90-minute fitness test, unprecedented by Indian standards, after which physio Andrew Leipus announced he is “available for selection” next match onwards — versus Pakistan, on Sunday.
The left-arm quick, though, has a “small lower back dysfunction” and, so, we must keep fingers crossed till he “strengthens” the muscles in that area.
For obvious reasons, Zaheer was the cynosure at Thursday afternoon’s workout — optional for the rest — at the SSC. He warmed-up, then bowled at nets and, after captain Sourav Ganguly turned up casually dressed in a T-shirt, went flat out on the turf proper before being made to take high catches and stretch.
Neither Leipus nor trainer Greg King wanted to leave anything to chance, not least because Zaheer has a history of breaking down. Clearly, Sourav and coach John Wright too wanted the test to be without precedent.
“Zaheer did everything we wanted him to and came off with flying colours... It now appears he had a spasm in the left thigh muscle. In all probability, because of a small dysfunction in the lower back... Basically, he needs to get stronger there and, from my side, his fitness programme is going to be devised to prevent a recurrence,” Leipus informed.
The speedster himself remarked his “relief” would be total once he “completes” a game. Zaheer, it may be recalled, hurt himself during last Sunday’s (IndianOil-sponsored) Asia Cup match against Sri Lanka in Dambulla. Incidentally, he did so while fielding before being brought on first-change and described the injury as “freak.”
Denying that he was under ‘pressure’ having to clear the test with dozens of Media personnel watching every move of his, Zaheer said: “Of course, I do need to get over the mental block (of injuries)... However, it’s not the hamstring which again played up...”
Later, speaking to The Telegraph, Sourav revealed he would keep “options open” and ascertain how Zaheer bowls at the full-fledged nets on Friday and Saturday before deciding on fielding him versus Pakistan.
“Zaheer has cleared the fitness test, but I’ve got to see how he holds up tomorrow and on Saturday... It’s premature to talk of either playing or not playing him,” the captain added.
Looking ahead generally, though, Sourav felt his team will have to be disciplined in all areas, particularly the bowling: “Yes, we’ve been giving away dozens of sundries and it’s a matter of concern... Moreover, we should remember Pakistan are going to come back hard...”
But, surely, the 3-2 victory over Pakistan earlier in the year will be giving India a comfort-cushion… “To an extent only,” responded Sourav, never quite one to rest on achievements already part of history.