Zaheer’s selection for Australia tour to be provisional

Zaheer Khan’s selection in India’s squad for the Test series in Australia will be “provisional” and subject to him proving his fitness during Mumbai’s next two matches in the Ranji Trophy, ESPNcricinfo has learned. The squad will be picked on November 26 in Mumbai, a day after the national selectors announce the squad for the five-match one-day series against West Indies.

A BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo that Zaheer would need to prove he is match-fit before flying to Australia. “It would definitely be provisional,” the source said of the prospects of Zaheer being included in the squad. Zaheer is likely to play for Mumbai against Orissa in Cuttack from November 29 and against Saurashtra in Rajkot from December 6.

Zaheer injured his right hamstring on the first day of the Lord’s Test during the tour of England in July. Though he recovered from that injury, a recurring ankle injury re-surfaced during the practice match against Northampton ahead of the third Test at Edgbaston, forcing Zaheer to abort the series that India eventually lost 4-0.

He underwent ankle surgery and is on the road to peak fitness. In the last month, in addition to his rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, Zaheer has been involved in light bowling sessions ahead of Mumbai’s home matches against Rajasthan and Karnataka.

Speaking informally to the media he indicated that he did not want to expedite his return. “I am monitoring my fitness on a day-by-day basis. It is looking good but I don’t want to say much,” Zaheer said. Zaheer pulled out of both India’s last two tours to Australia after playing just one Test – with a left heel injury in 2007-08 and with hamstring problems in 2003-04.

For the moment, according to the Mumbai Cricket Association officials, it is certain that Zaheer will play in Cuttack. As for the Rajkot game, Zaheer is likely to take a call based on how he feels against Orissa.

He was seen bowling without any visible difficulty during India’s nets at the Wankhede stadium today. He delivered close to five overs against the specialist batsmen in a light training session ahead of the third Test against West Indies.

The India squad is scheduled to depart for Australia in the second week of December. Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron made up the fast-bowling department for the home series against West Indies. Those three are likely to retain their places along with Zaheer, if he is declared fit, with another seamer expected to bolster the pace department.

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