Zaheer Khan declared on Friday that he was on track to spearhead the India attack in the Boxing Day Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The left-arm seamer felt his comeback game couldn't have been better.
Spearheading Mumbai's attack in the Ranji Trophy Super League match against Orissa, the left-arm pacer bowled 22 overs for four wickets.
"I am feeling absolutely fine; a bit tired, which is a good thing because it means I have put in the effort. It's looking good, everything is on track, probably, a week ahead of the schedule. The physios are happy and I am happy too," said Zaheer.
The Cuttack match was his first competitive outing since he broke down on July 21 at Lord's.
Zaheer got better as the match progressed, bowling four spells, the first three were of six overs each, and finished with a four-over burst in which he looked close to his best. The focus is now on fine-tuning the bowling rhythm. That, he said, would be happen against Saurashtra at Rajkot.
"Physically, I am feeling fine. Obviously, as I bowl more, I will get better. I am happy with how things are going at the moment, but bowling-wise I need to get the rhythm going. That's going to be achieved in the next game," said Zaheer after helping Mumbai to an innings victory.
The fast bowler said he was feeling confident for the Australia series. "The next game is crucial (in terms of preparation). After that, will see how I feel. All in all, so far everything is on track (for the Australia tour)."
What did he hope to derive from the game?
"As I haven't played a single game in four months, I was looking to get back in that (match) environment; spend time on the field as in the Tests. It's about spending six hours on the field and then coming to bowl a spell and then again the next day. It is not easy.
"In that way, this (game) was perfect. I got to bowl a spell on the first day and then again 16 overs or so the next day. In one-and-a-half days, I managed to bowl 22 overs, which is an exact simulation of a Test match. Having said so, I need to build on match fitness."
Asked whether he would prefer to arrive early in Australia and train or play a second Ranji game, Zaheer replied, "I would prefer to play a match (against Saurashtra). This is what I have conveyed (to the Board). I am looking forward to the next game."