Finally, a bland three-line mail from the BCCI put an end to all the speculation over the day on whether Zaheer Khan would be fit for the third Test on the pacer-friendly Perth wicket or not. He will not.
Zaheer, who saw a specialist here in Sydney on Tuesday night, has an injury to his left heel and was declared unfit on Wednesday. But till late night, a report was awaited on whether or now he could be chanced with for the rest of the series. The report arrived and it was finally decided that however tough the decision would be on the team, further injury to Zaheer could not be risked.
He is set to return to India immediately. The Board release also said that after consulting the team management, the selection committee had decided to send Punjab paceman V.R.V. Singh as a replacement for Zaheer.
The Indian players were naturally quite upset by the news. “It’s like we’re jinxed,” said a player. “Every time we think something will not happen, something does.” Another said it would affect them quite a bit, “given Zaheer’s experience”. “But what can we do?” asked the senior player. “We cannot control the uncontrollables, we have to make do with what we have.”
The Zaheer saga is a continuation of a series of injuries that have laid low Indian pacers in the recent past. While the BCCI does not seem to be unduly worried by the spate of injuries, the players definitely are.
“Given the kind of schedule we have, there is no time for rest or recovery,” said a player. “The Board has of course told us that we can make ourselves unavailable for a series if it’s important enough. Officially, there’s no stopping anyone from opting out at any stage, but who will? Given the current scenario, no one wants to take a chance on risking their careers, it would be crazy.”
India’s schedule continues to be harried even after this 80-odd day tour of Australia is done.
If India reach the tri-nation VB series final and it goes into the (third) final play-off, that would be on March 7. It would again give the team no breathing space really before the SA series, which would be followed very quickly by the inaugural Indian Premier League. The chances of more injuries look very, very high.