Rain played spoilsport on the first evening of the opening Test, but the grey sky was not the reason for the gloom in the India camp. Their concern lay in the fitness of Zaheer Khan.
India were off to a bright start but the smiles vanished when their premier fast bowler limped off in his 14th over.
Zaheer was in the midst of a stirring spell after lunch when he clutched the right hamstring in his follow through and walked off. He had snared both the wickets to fall and the England batsmen were at sea against his movement in the air and off the wicket.
The injury coming so early in the game has raised questions on whether he was match fit.
Match fitness is different from normal fitness. One can be a regular with heavy workouts but only lengthy hours of bowling get the muscles toned for the rigours of the game. Zaheer was playing a Test after a gap of more than six months, his last outing being in South Africa in January. Even in the only warm-up game India played on this tour, Zaheer did not take the field in the second innings.
Legendary pace bowler Wasim Akram said India's chances in the game would hinge on the extent of Zaheer's injury. "It will depend on how bad the injury is," said the former Pakistan captain.
Till he sustained the injury, it was a dream start for Zaheer. The England batsmen were having a torrid time trying to read his swing as the left-arm seamer enhanced his reputation against left-handers by claiming the wickets of openers, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook. "He bowled very well in his later spells. He was the only one who was pushing through the ball with force. In England, the wickets will be slower and you have to put in more effort which the other India bowlers didn't do," said Akram.
"Zaheer would have been even more successful had he pushed through the new ball harder. There was every chance of him picking up a couple of wickets at the start," he observed.