Shimoga: In normal times, Zaheer Khan would never spend the morning before a Test match of four-day match bowling. Anyone who has watched Zaheer closely since his comeback to the Indian team in 2006 will tell you that the day before a game was used for warming up, plenty of dynamic stretching and perhaps some light jogging. Of course, two days before a game and Zaheer would have given it his all in the nets.
But, these are far from normal times. Zaheer, who last played a Test for India against England in Kolkata in December last year, was dropped after bowling 31 unpenetrative overs in which he conceded 94 and picked up the lone wicket of Matt Prior. The zip with the new ball was gone, the old ball would not do what he wanted to. The mind was still very much willing, but Zaheer was both jaded and carrying a few extra pounds.
From Shrirampur to Shimoga, it has been a long journey encompassing 88 Tests in which Zaheer went from being a tearaway quick to one of the most skilful medium pace bowlers in the world. At Shimoga, the next phase of Zaheer's career begins, and the latest journey has taken a couple of interesting detours. Holed up in the south of France, Zaheer rebuilt his body with Tim Exeter, a high performance physical trainer, along with Yuvraj Singh, another Indian cricketer in search of rejuvenation. The experience, which the two described as going to physical hell and back, has certainly done its job. Yuvraj, who jokes that he looks 10 years younger, is back among the runs and in the Indian limited-overs team.