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Sai Mohan, Hindustan Times
Lahli, October 29, 2013
His four wickets against Haryana notwithstanding, Zaheer Khan is most likely to be left out when selectors meet on Tuesday to pick a 14-man squad for the two-Test series against West Indies starting on November 6. The 35-year-old left-arm pacer is likely to be overlooked in favour of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a fit-again Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma, HT has learnt.

Zaheer, who last played the Kolkata Test against England last December, was dropped for the four home Tests against Australia earlier this year. Though Zaheer finished with figures of 4/59 on Monday, day two of the Mumbai-Haryana Ranji Trophy tie, he was unable to exploit the seamer-friendly conditions the way Joginder Sharma (5/16) did earlier in the day.

Getting there
The track here affords considerable bounce and there is a hint of swing but Zaheer didn’t hit the right length until the later half of the day. Even in the first innings, though Mumbai shot out Haryana for 134, the damage was done by Javed Khan (2/12) and Abhishek Nayar (4/38). Zaheer took only one wicket.

That none of the national selectors turned up to watch the Mumbai-Haryana Ranji Trophy tie was a strong indicator. Though Zaheer has got the wickets to show in recent times, including a match-winning haul of 4/59 against West Indies ‘A’ at Shimoga, he hasn’t done enough to win his place back, according to a national selector. “As of now, we don’t expect to pick Zaheer,” he said.

Vital overseas
“Zaheer will surely be a strong contender to go to South Africa and New Zealand, but we feel it’s important to stick with the winning combination from the four Tests against Australia. Also, the coach and team management want him to prove his fitness by playing more matches,” said a selector. “With Umesh getting fit again and Shami showing what he’s capable of against Australia (in the Ranchi ODI), we want to stick with youngsters.

Though Zaheer remains in the fray, we expect to play three spinners against West Indies, so it’ll be tough for Zaheer to find a place just yet,” he added.

While there will be a toss-up between Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra for the third spinner’s spot, Ajinkya Rahane will retain his place despite a forgettable Test debut this year. If the selectors choose a 15th player, expect that spot to go to Rohit Sharma or Suresh Raina.