Selectors Recall Fit And Hungry Zaheer For Proteas Test Series

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Selectors recall fit and hungry Zaheer for the Test series against South Africa By [/home/search.html?s=&authornamef=Mail+Today+Correspondent Mail Today Correspondent]
Published: 00:05 BST, 26 November 2013 | Updated: 00:05 BST, 26 November 2013
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comments] Mumbai player Zaheer Khan last played a Test match against England in December

On the back of his good recent performance in the domestic circuit, India's long-time pace spearhead Zaheer Khan on Monday staged a comeback after almost a year for the upcoming Test series in South Africa.

The 35-year-old Mumbai speedster last played a Test match against England in Kolkata in December, but showed remarkable improvement in the recent Ranji Trophy matches, prompting the selectors to name him in the 17-member squad.

The Sandip Patil-headed selection panel, however, ignored opener Gautam Gambhir, who scored a century in Delhi's win over Haryana on Saturday.

"His [Gambhir's] name was discussed. In fact, we discussed a lot of things. Even skipper MS Dhoni was consulted and all the players were selected unanimously," BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel told reporters in Baroda, his home town, where the meeting was held.

The selectors surprised everyone by picking Ambati Rayudu in both Test and ODI squads.

Interestingly, Rayudu now represents Baroda in domestic competitions. Bengal's Wriddhiman Saha is the second wicket-keeper in the Test squad, besides captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The itinerary comprises three ODIs and they will be followed by two Tests, to be played from December 5 to December 30.

Zaheer was a strong contender, especially after he worked on his fitness and took 13 wickets in three Ranji Trophy matches, including a five-wicket haul.

This performance, coupled with his experience of 88 Tests, was enough to compel the selectors to pick him on the crucial tour.
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Interestingly, Zaheer was not given the central contract by the BCCI recently.

He will be the leader of the pack that comprises Ishant Sharma, who would consider himself lucky to be picked after being ignored for the two-Test series against the West Indies, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and new sensation Mohammed Shami.

The Mumbai stalwart has bagged 295 Test wickets and the rest of the four pacers have a total of 196 - 99 wickets less than the left-arm speedster.

This shows the vast difference between Zaheer and the rest. He would be an asset on hard and bouncy wickets of South Africa.

Zaheer visited France - along with Yuvraj Singh, who retains his place in the ODI squad despite poor recent form - and then South Africa in his effort to become fit for the 2013-14 season.

MS Dhoni (capt and wk), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, R.

Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ambati Rayudu, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha

"He has worked hard on his fitness in the last eight months. He has slimmed down so much that he is looking like a 25-year-old boy. He is very much determined," Zaheer's coach Sudhir Naik told Mail Today.

That selectors had Zaheer in their scheme of things was evident when they picked him for India 'A' that played two unofficial 'Tests' against the West Indies last month.

He, however, did not set the stands on fire, barring a four-wicket haul in the second match in Hubli.

Zaheer, in fact, considers himself a rhythm bowler. In 2006, he represented Worcestershire in English county competitions and returned a completely revamped and improved bowler.

Now, he is in a more-or-less similar situation. He is fit and has shown the hunger for wickets.
He has to extend his form to the Test series in South Africa beginning on December 18 in Wanderers, Johannesburg.

The batting line-up too is along the expected lines. Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan are the openers, though there is no third specialist opener.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, 'all-rounder' Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni complete the solid batting backbone.

Jadeja, who missed the two Tests against West Indies due a shoulder strain, will also double up as a leftarm spinner, in addition to R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.

Ishant back in mix for ODI series

Baroda player Ambati Rayudu was the lone surprise in the Indian one-day squad announced on Monday.

The 28-year-old Rayudu, who is currently a part of the ODI team playing a home series against the West Indies, has played four ODIs so far.

He can also keep wickets.
India's Ishant Sharma (facing) celebrates with teammates after dismissing England batsman KP Pietersen during the an ODI match

Also, speedster Ishant Sharma, who was dropped from the ODI series against the West Indies after a forgettable performance in the home series against Australia, is back in the squad.

Umesh Yadav and Ajinkya Rahane are the other two who have found a place in the squad. Jaydev Unadkat and Vinay Kumar have been left out.

Ishant, who has also been struggling, barring his nine-wicket haul against Haryana in a Ranji Trophy match in Delhi last week.

With not much to show, Yuvraj Singh would consider himself lucky to be picked for the three-match ODI series beginning on December 5 at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt and wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ambati Rayudu, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra

Indian batting has looked solid in the recent series against Australia and in the two matches against the West Indies, with Rohit Sharma being in sublime form.

He has opened the batting with Shikhar Dhawan with great success.

Virat Kohli, Yuvraj, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane and captain Dhoni are the other batsmen in the 16-mmeber squad.