Ever since his axe from the Indian team during the home Test series against England last year, Zaheer has taken it upon himself to get back into shape and consulted a number of trainers and physios.
And the result is there for all to see. He is much leaner and fitter and is set to lead the Indian attack in the two-Test series against South Africa next month.
“Last year when I sat down and was thinking about my fitness, the first question on my mind was whether I should attempt a comeback.
“When I was sure, I chalked out a strategy and did everything possible to make sure that I am there. I consulted a few trainers and physios and developed a plan which worked well for me,” said Zaheer after a practice session with the Mumbai team at the Wankhede yesterday.
Zaheer, who is just five wickets away from recording 300 Test scalps, said the break forced him to believe in himself and do everything in order to return to the Indian fold.
“I don’t think it was anything to do with my mental make-up. It was important to believe in myself and my abilities. That is what I have always being doing in my career. The thought process was important.”
The recovery process was a test of patience for Zaheer. The initial six months were spent undergoing intensive training in France and South Africa. He returned to competitive cricket only in October when he turned 35.
“It’s been slow progress,” he admitted. “Right from Shimoga (where he played a first-class match upon his return against West Indies ‘A’), I needed some overs under my belt and progressed gradually.
I have always encouraged that match practice is the best practice. Then slowly things started picking up. The spell in Hubli (where he claimed 4-59 in the second India ‘A’ game) towards the end gave me a lot of confidence.”
Now, Zaheer hopes to work on the finer details before leaving for South Africa. He will be leading defending champions Mumbai in tomorrow’s Ranji Trophy match against Vidarbha at the Wankhede.
“I am really looking forward to joining the Indian team. I just want to give some final touches. I have ironed out all the flaws that were pulling me back.
I am ready to take the challenge. I have some good memories of South Africa where I made a comeback (in 2006). I am looking forward to it,” Zaheer signed off.