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Zaheer Khan is not a passenger in the Indian team: Ajit Agarkar

Veteran speedster may not have set the New Zealand tracks ablaze, but the paceman certainly is not a spent force, reckons Ajit Agarkar

After coach Duncan Fletcher and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, veteran paceman Zaheer Khan is under scrutiny for India’s back-to-back defeats in South Africa and New Zealand.


Zaheer Khan bowls during the second Test against New Zealand in Wellington. PIC/Getty Images

Although the 35-year-old pace spearhead showed no fitness worries during the last two tours, former India skipper Rahul Dravid felt Zaheer cannot survive the rigours of five Test matches in England later this year and should start contemplating his future.

“Can he survive five Test matches in England? I am not so sure,” Dravid told ESPNcricinfo.com. “I think it is a question he deeply needs to ask himself. He doesn’t want to end up being someone who struggles his way through to the end. It can be really hard. And we have seen, he struggled to back up time and time again in these two series. So that’s an issue he needs to consider, Indian selectors need to consider.”

Not a passenger
Former pacer Ajit Agarkar, who had a close association with Zaheer during his India and Mumbai Ranji Trophy days, however, does not believe the paceman is a spent force.

“From what I saw in New Zealand and a bit of him in South Africa, I don’t think he is a passenger in the team. He just got a fifer in the last innings. It is always difficult to make a comeback after a year. At this moment, Zak’s skills and experience is what Team India is looking for,” Agarkar told MiD DAY yesterday.

Ajit Agarkar

Since his comeback, Zaheer has grabbed 16 wickets in four Tests. Prior to that he last played an international match in December 2012.

The left-arm pacer impressed with 4-88 in the first innings on his comeback to international cricket in the Johannesburg Test in December. He claimed only one wicket in the second innings, conceding 135 runs as India miraculously drew the match.

In the second Test at Durban, Zaheer claimed 2-97 in the first innings. He did not bowl in the second outing as the target of 59 was achieved in just 11.4 overs.

In the New Zealand series, Zaheer claimed four wickets in the first Test at Auckland and finished the tour with a fifer in the second innings of the final Test at Wellington.

Agarkar said it is too early to predict about Zaheer for the England tour. “There is a lot of cricket still to be played. You have the domestic tournaments and then the IPL. I think we would be in a better position to make a judgment (for the England series) once these tournaments are over. That would give us a clear picture as to where Zaheer stands as far as his form and fitness is concerned,” Agarkar stressed.

Agarkar also tried to make sense of Dravid’s comments. “What Rahul has said is that Zaheer should contemplate his future. At this age, every cricketer does that. Zak has played over 90 Tests which is huge, especially for a pace bowler.

Form and fitness are critical at this age,” he said.

Still very accurate
Zaheer’s club coach and mentor Sudhir Naik said India is yet to find an able replacement for the fast bowler. “I agree that Zaheer may not be the same as he was a few years ago. But he is still the most accurate bowler,” Naik said. Naik hinted Zaheer, who is eight Tests away from completing 100 Tests, would take a call on his future after the feat.

Selectors, watch out for them!

>> Rishi Dhawan
Highest wicket-taker in the last Ranji season (49 wickets in 8 matches for Himachal Pradesh)

>> R Vinay Kumar
Most impressive in the Ranji Trophy final and Irani Cup (7 and 10 wickets in final and Irani Cup respectively)

>> Abhimanyu Mithun
Highest wicket-taker for Ranji champs Karnataka (41 in 10 matches)

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