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He’s fit & raring to prove himself

While the selectors seem perennially unsure about Munaf Patel’s fitness, the pacer looks determined to make a comeback, reports Kadambari Murali.

cricket Updated: Jun 15, 2007 03:35 IST
Kadambari Murali

He's obviously somewhat low after not having made the Indian squad for the tour of Ireland and the England Tests, but Munaf Patel is determined that this setback will not get him down. As far as he's concerned, "the future" lies ahead.

He is presently taking time off to heal (mentally, that is, physically, he says he's "absolutely fine") ahead of what is going to be a rather gruelling time. At the moment, the media shy Munaf is resting at home in Ikhar (in Gujarat's Bharuch district), with only his family and lifelong friends for company.

He has switched off his mobile phone and can only be contacted via other people in the vicinity, because he just wants to stay away from all the fuss surrounding his exclusion from the team.

"I am feeling fine," he says, when there is finally something to be had from the rather non-communicative paceman. The back spasms are a thing of the past. They have not disappeared altogether, but as more than one person has pointed out, they are part of a fast bowler's life. And as far as Munaf is concerned, there is just nothing wrong with him physically.

To "prove it" to himself and if need be, "improve" himself, he has decided to go to the familiar environs of the MRF Pace Academy. "I will leave for Chennai in a few days," he says, adding that while, like any other Indian player who finds himself out of the team, he does feel bad at being out, he will do everything he can to prove he "belongs in the team".

"I am just going to do my best to come back for future tours," he says. "These things (being in and out) happen in life and you have to deal with them as they do." He remains positive.

When chairman of selectors, Dilip Vengsarkar, addressed the media after the selection committee meeting here on Tuesday, he seemed more than usually brusque when asked about Munaf. "He's not fit," he said.

And when it was pointed out that Munaf (and Zaheer Khan, who was picked), had been cleared by Indian physiotherapist John Gloster, he said Munaf was still troubled by back spasms. As reported by HT on Wednesday, according to selection committee sources, the problem with Munaf is that they are never sure whether he is actually match fit or not, even if he has been cleared as being "physically fit".

"Gloster's report said Munaf was able to do all the fitness drills except bowling and indicated he would be fully fit in two weeks time.

“Now what does that mean? Is he physically fit or is he actually match fit? There is a vital difference," a selector had told HT, adding that the selectors were very wary of "more embarrassment (like in South Africa and Bangladesh)" in Munaf's case.

"The problem with Munaf," says a top Indian player, "is his background. He comes from the kind of place that most of us would never have imagined, let alone been to. It has been a tremendous journey for him.

He just needs to be handled differently and needs to be understood. We all know of what happened in South Africa but the thing with Munaf is, he actually believed he was fine, that he could play. There is no malice about him, and he does not hide things on purpose. All he wants to do is play and sometimes, his body does not respond with the same enthusiasm."

At the moment though, Munaf is convinced he is completely fit. And as he says, he's going to do everything to prove that to himself and anyone who doubts that. For India, that can only be a good thing.