New Delhi: Recovering from a muscle injury, veteran pacer Zaheer Khan is eyeing a comeback to competitive cricket for Mumbai Indians during Champions League T20 in early October, even though he was non-commital about his chances of making it to the World Cup squad in 2015.
"The World Cup is a special tournament and it is everyone's dream to be part of the Indian team. But it is still a long way away. Right now, am I fit to bowl? I am not. Things will unfold for me. The Champions League T20 is the first step towards proving I am fit and on top of my game," the 35-year-old told ESPN Cricinfo.
Zaheer revealed that the kind of injury he has sustained is rarest of rare.
"I have a tear in the tendon in a lateral muscle on the left side. Because it is a tendon injury it takes its own time to heal. I am told I am only the second bowler to get this kind of an injury. I am right now working on recovering, strengthening and fitness. The timeline given to me was about ten to 12 weeks from the date of injury. Right now I have finished six weeks," the left-arm seamer said.
The Mumbai pacer said it will take him atleast another month before he starts bowling at the nets.
"I have not held a ball after picking up the injury. I am still (going to take) about four weeks before I start bowling. I have to see how my body is responding. It is about how I'm feeling in terms of my bowling -- whether I am able to bowl exactly the way I want to bowl, whether I'm able to meet my expectations in terms of bowling."
He did not hide his disappointment about missing the England tour.
"I have been working towards this tour for the last year. I was focusing on Test matches. Even through the IPL, my routines were (related to) working towards the England tour. Considering all that, it was disappointing to miss out. I just hope that the Indian team does well on English soil."
Zaheer refrained from reacting about his personal coach Sudhir Naik's comment that the ageing speedster will find it difficult to make an international comeback after this kind of an injury.
"I respect his (Naik's) opinion. Right now, I am in no position to say anything more. If you are 35, then obviously there will be more questions asked than when you are 25 or 27. The important thing is to keep working on what you believe in. Ultimately it is about performing: if you are able to match the expectations and fulfill the demands that come from playing at the highest level of cricket, then the rest should take care of itself."
Just like Naik's comments, Zaheer also presented a dead bat when asked about his former captain Rahul Dravid's opinion that he would "hate to see Zaheer Khan end his career bowling 120-125 kph and limp away from international cricket."
"I do not feel there is any need to respond. I know that even if you wake me up from my sleep, I am going to bowl in the 133kph range. There is a basic pace a bowler has and it is natural. In terms of pace, since 2006, when I cut short my run-up, I have always focused on variations, in terms of swing and adding that element of surprise. Pace has never been the most important criteria for me.
Obviously you cannot be bowling at 125kph, but if I am able to bowl at 135 with variations and have control over line and length it is equivalent to bowling as quick as 140kph. I have focused on speed-up variations: if I am bowling at an average speed of 131-133kph, suddenly I spike it to 138kph. The odd ball has proved crucial."
Zaheer made it clear that he was never a tearaway quick so to expect a speed of 140 kmph from his deliveries at a consistent basis is unacceptable.
"I have never been an out-and-out fast bowler, at least after 2006. So there is no reason (that) I should be chasing the 140kph mark when I am 35 years old."