Even as Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman marched towards victory in New Delhi on Wednesday, the India dressing room had another reason to cheer.
More than 1400 km from the Ferozeshah Kotla, Zaheer Khan joined his Mumbai teammates on the eve of their Ranji Trophy Elite League match against Rajasthan here.
Few would have forgotten the repercussions of Zaheer breaking down on the first day of India's disastrous tour of England. As a result, the entire fraternity is banking on the speedster to recover in time for next month's Australia tour.
Those who saw Zaheer run in to bowl to the Mumbai batsmen hoped the left-armer would be available for the all-important series Down Under.
Zaheer, who underwent surgery on right ankle in August, did not run in full steam. But he appeared to be moving towards optimum fitness. During the 45 minutes he bowled, he got sharper with every delivery.
In the rhythm
“I have been bowling like this for almost two weeks. I bowled six overs and it felt good. I am building up (towards match fitness) and have some time to go for that,” he said. More than the Australia series, it is Mumbai's Ranji match in Cuttack less than a fortnight away that's on Zaheer's mind.
“I faced him in the nets today and he looked good,” said skipper Wasim Jaffer. “He is slowly building up (towards fitness) and I have heard that he is looking to play the (two) matches.”
If Zaheer can prove his match fitness against Orissa (at Cuttack from Nov 29) and Saurashtra (at Rajkot from Dec 6), the selectors will have little hesitation in picking him to the squad for the Australia series on December 10.