Zaheer Khan, India's pace spearhead, could miss out on a part of the forthcoming three-Test series beginning in Sri Lanka on July 23 after being advised to play “at least two 3-4 day matches” to assess his fitness. Zaheer, who has been suffering from a recurring heel injury (plantar fascia) on his left foot, underwent rigorous training at the National Cricket Academy from June 21- June 30.
The national selection panel will meet on July 8 to pick the squad for the Sri Lanka tour and the final decision on whether to accept the NCA physio's recommendation, or take a chance and pick Zaheer, lies with them. If they do pick Zaheer, he will get a chance to get back in the groove in a three-day warm-up match in Colombo starting July 18.
"Zaheer has shown adequate recovery and coped up well to the given work load," V Muthukumar, physiotherapist at the NCA, wrote in his report, a copy of which is with the Hindustan Times, assessing Zaheer's progress at the end of the camp, adding, "No physical discomforts apart from general soreness reported after any training session."
The report details Zaheer's work at the camp including four weight training sessions and carefully monitored bowling sessions. He began with a 50-ball session on June 21, sent down 45 on June 24 and then 30 on June 25. When the players moved outdoors to open net sessions, Zaheer bowled a longish spell of 12 overs on June 27 split into two spells of eight and four overs. On June 30, Zaheer sent down 16 overs in a practice match, in spells of six, four, and again six overs.
At the end of this exercise, the physio conceded that Zaheer had proved his fitness in long spells, but recommended, with a long-term view, that the left-arm quick play at least two three or four-day matches to "get a clear picture of his Test match fitness."
The problem for Zaheer is that there is hardly any senior cricket being played in India at the moment, with the domestic season only set to get under way in September. An option will be to try and get a game in England where Twenty20 cricket has just given way to four-day matches. Two seasons ago, when Zaheer was out of the team, it was a successful stint with Worcestershire, where he collected 78 wickets that paved his re-entry into international cricket.