Towards the end of India’s practice session on Tuesday, he was running in with a ball, but wasn’t completing the act. With team physio Nitin Patel watching, Zaheer Khan was just trying to figure out how far from recovery he was.
A groin problem has kept him from bowling for the last few days. And after missing Sunday’s match against Australia, he will sit out from Wednesday’s outing against New Zealand too. With two days for the World Cup to begin, the team isn’t taking chances.
“We have decided to rest him for tomorrow’s match but he will play the first game of the World Cup (against Bangladesh in Dhaka on Saturday),” said captain MS Dhoni.
It’s easy to understand why Dhoni wants to protect Zaheer. One keeps his most prized possession in safe custody unless it’s being used, and Zaheer is just that for India.
So he did some knocking at the nets, watched fellow bowlers loosen up, had a chat with coach Gary Kirsten before heading for some catching practice. He didn’t look in discomfort, but stopped short of bowling after running in.
“He always had talent, but over the years Zaheer has become stronger and clever, and has learnt the intricacies of swing bowling. I take a lot of satisfaction in the way he has shaped up over the last 10 years,” said John Wright, who was the India coach when Zaheer made his debut in 2000.
So even though spinners are being seen as the prime weapons, Zaheer still stands invaluable. The team has no choice but to be extra cautious before letting him loose.