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Zaheer 'ready for the challenge' of South Africa

November 26, 2013 20:30 IST

Zaheer 'ready for the challenge' of South Africa

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Veteran India pacer Zaheer Khan, who was named in the Test side for the tour of South Africa after nearly a year in the wilderness, is looking forward to the challenge next month’s tour holds and expressed confidence of doing well.

Speaking to the media in Mumbai, where he was training with the Mumbai squad for the upcoming Ranji Trophy match against Vidarbha, beginning November 28, he declared he is ready for the challenge of South Africa, having “ironed out things that were pulling me back”.

“I am ready to take on the challenge. It is great to accept a challenge and live up to it,” he said.

The 35-year-old bowler was named in India’s 17-man Test squad following a good showing in the Ranji Trophy this season, which has seen him take 13 wickets in three matches, at an average of 19.84.

The senior pro, whose last Test outing was against England in Kolkata in December 2012, said, "I have had some good memories of South Africa. My last comeback was there, so I am looking forward to it."

Zaheer, who will lead Mumbai in this week’s Ranji Trophy match against Vidarbha, said he is looking forward to joining the Indian squad after using the upcoming match “to get some overs under the belt”.


Image: Zaheer Khan
Photographs: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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'It was important that I keep believing in myself'

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The left-arm seamer, who battled fitness issues over the last few months, said he expected to make a comeback after working hard on the “physical aspect”.

"I was expecting that. Last year when I sat down and was thinking about exactly how to go about… firstly, if I want to make my comeback or no. That was the biggest question for me. When the answer was yes, I then chalked out a strategy; what exactly was needed. And I did everything possible to make sure that I am there. Obviously, physical aspect was a big thing and I had to tackle that.

"In consultation with lot of trainers and physios I chalked out a plan and so far it worked.

"Mentally, there was no problem; physically, there was a little. It was important that I keep believing in myself, my abilities and just keep on putting the work. That's what I have always been doing so far in my career. This time it was no different," he said.


Image: Zaheer Khan
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images
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'The spell I bowled in Hubli gave me lot of confidence'

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Zaheer, who has 23 wickets from six Tests in South Africa, said his confidence got a shot in the arm after the spell against the West Indies 'A' in Hubli last month.

Having made it to the India ‘A’ team he bowled 33 overs against West Indies 'A' at Shimoga in the first unofficial Test and picked a solitary wicket in each innings, but followed that up with a match-winning effort at Hubli, claiming four wickets for 59 runs from 16.5 overs in the second innings as the home side won by an innings and 54 runs to level the series.

“It has been slow progress right from Shimoga. When I went to Shimoga I knew that I needed some overs under my belt to progress gradually. I didn't want anything to happen suddenly and I was kind of progressing slowly but surely.

"I have always believed that match practice is always the best practice, and that was on my mind as I bowled a few overs in that game. Slowly things started picking up. The spell I bowled in Hubli towards the end (of the West Indies innings) gave me lot of confidence and from there I just picked it up," he said, adding, that bowling in the Ranji Trophy games helped.

"It was more to do with getting in that zone as far as matches are concerned. Those spells… I was looking at it more from trying out different things. Once I had overs under my belt, I was comfortable being on the field; I was feeling that the recovery in between the spells was spot on.

“I was able to recover in between the spells and comeback the next day. So those were the things I was looking at.

“As far as Test matches are concerned, you have to not only put in effort on the first day, but the important thing is make sure that you are on from ball one."


Image: Zaheer Khan
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images

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'Training stint at Bloemfontein was to get acclimatized'

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Zaheer said the training stint at Bloemfontein, South Africa, with fitness expert Adrian le Roux in September, was meant to get acclimatized to those conditions.

"That was the plan. Obviously, Adrian is someone with whom I have worked with before when he was with the Indian team. We have that rapport. I knew what kind of credibility he has. During the IPL, we had a plan that I would do my strength and conditioning base first in France and then join him for the cricketing skills there in Bloemfontein. Basically, I just stuck to the plan," he said.

He also revealed that he plans to start something similar to the regimen he underwent in South Africa to attain fitness.

"I have plans of start something here that I did abroad because lots of people get benefited. I had the privilege to go abroad and I could afford to do those things, but I feel in India you need a set-up like that in terms of physiotherapy and fitness. So, hopefully, instead of giving you a lowdown I will give you the real thing here."


Image: Zaheer Khan
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images

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'Shami bowled well with the new and old ball'

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He was effusive in praise of pacer Mohammed Shami, who had a dream debut claiming four wickets for 71 runs and five for 47 on his home ground, the Eden Gardens, as India beat the West Indies in the first Test by an innings and 51 runs, on Day 3.

"The (India’s) bowling attack is very promising. Shami produced a brilliant spell against the West Indies. It was like a dream spell and a dream debut for anyone. Considering sub-continent, it is hard to get wickets. He not only bowled well with the new ball but also the old," said Zaheer. 


Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images

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