With just two days to go for the much-awaited first Test against South Africa of India's 2010-11 Tour, the visitors are the recipients of bad news. India might just be deprived of the services of their pace bowling spearhead Zaheer Khan, owing to a suspected hamstring injury.
Doubts about the fast man's fitness surfaced when he merely joined in the team's fitness drills but didn't bowl a single ball in nets. The word is that the medical scans have not been conclusive, though neither Zaheer not the team want to risk aggravating the injury.
"As of now he is not [fit]," a team source said. "There are still a couple of days to go to the Test, so we didn't want to take any risks." So, while the rest of the team had a good workout in the nets at the Supersport Park in Centurion, Zaheer put in time with team physio Paul Chapman. He went through the light fitness drill tenderly, often clutching his groin region.
It's possible Zaheer picked up the strain during the fourth one-dayer against New Zealand, in Bangalore. At the end of the 9th over, Zaheer trudged off the field with painful expression on his face as he held his groin area. This is a recurrence of the same injury that struck him during the second Test against New Zealand. He walked off the field even during that match due to being in pain and was subsequently kept out of the first two ODIs against the visitors. He also didn't play in the fifth and final ODI at Chennai.
It seems Zaheer's heavy work schedule has taken its toll on his body. He missed the tour of Sri Lanka with a wound to the same shoulder that was operated on two years ago. He began his comeback through the Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa and did well in the home Tests against Australia before getting injured again.
The team is keeping its finger crossed that Zaheer will be in ship shape for the Test beginning on Thursday, Dec 16. Should he be ruled out, Umesh Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat will enter the fray, unless India decides to go with two spinners, in which case Pragyan Ojha will be in the playing XI.