India need not sweat over Zaheer

When Zaheer Khan limped off the field after bowling 11.5 overs in four spells at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday, it seemed like a bigger blow to Team India than Team Mumbai. But Mumbai captain Ajit Agarkar confirmed that it was just a cramp and the pacer would be back on the final day of Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy Group A opener against Railways today.

“It was just a cramp and I’m sure Zak would come back and bowl tomorrow. He has a Test match at the back of his mind and so it’s obvious that he won’t take any chance,” Agarkar told reporters after having a tough day on the field.

Mumbai’s Zaheer Khan walks back to the pavilion during the Ranji Trophy tie against Railways at Wankhede yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK

Having bowled just 11 overs over three spells yesterday, the left-arm seamer had to rush to the pavilion leaving Abhishek Nayar to complete the over. Zaheer had claimed Mahesh Rawat’s (68) wicket, but with quite an ordinary display of seam bowling. He returned figures of 20.5-5-41-1.

With the first India vs England Test from November 15, the crafty bowler would have 10 days to recover from the niggle, and according to Agarkar this won’t hamper his chances of spearheading the Indian attack in Ahmedabad. “It’s just a minor cramp probably because of the humid conditions. I don’t think this will affect his chances of playing the opening Test against England,” Agarkar said.

Meanwhile, on a placid Wankhede strip, the Mumbai bowlers had to toil hard for every wicket as Railways made 380-8 at stumps on the penultimate day, thus managing to avoid the follow-on. Overnight batsmen Nitin Bhille (73) and Sanjay Bangar (67) added 110 for the third wicket in the first session itself.

Agarkar was surely the pick of the Mumbai bowlers claiming three wickets, while left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla bagged a couple. Zaheer, Abhishek Nayar and Ramesh Powar got one apiece.

Without blaming the wicket, Agarkar felt that a gritty batting display by the opponents and not-so-good bowling by the hosts resulted in an ordinary day for the 39-time Ranji Trophy champions. “They (Railways batsmen) applied themselves well, but at the same time, our bowling was also not up to mark,” he said. Asked whether it’s still possible to force a result, Agarkar was non-committal: “First, we have to get the two remaining wickets and then think of the next step.”  

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