When India last toured England in 2011, their campaign took a major blow in the first session of the series itself when Zaheer Khan limped off the field at Lord’s holding his hamstring. Things only got worse from that point, eventually ending in a 4-0 whitewash.
The veteran left-arm seamer and his hamstring will be up for stringent scrutiny once more on Wednesday as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) senior selection committee sit to pick the squad for the upcoming Test tour to England, which starts in the last week of June. The selectors are also expected to announce the team for the three-match ODI series in Bangladesh that will take place next month prior to the English sojourn.
While a fit Zaheer is an invaluable asset, his fragile body as always is sure to provide Sandeep Patil & Co with a major headache, especially in the wake of him missing a major chunk of the ongoing IPL with a hamstring pull.
For starters, you can’t help but wonder why the selectors are so keen on picking the squad, which is expected to be a 17-member party, for a tour that is still a good month away. The main reason for this haste, according to a BCCI official, is the prevailing rigid visa process for traveling to the United Kingdom. And the board decided that it was prudent to pick the team at this stage to avoid any last-minute visa issues.
“UK visas take a lot of time now as the applicant has to personally go for their finger test. It is overall a long process. In the past, we had situations where players arrived late in England due to delays with their visa. And plus we would have had some of the touring party in Bangladesh. Hence, we thought it was better to pick the squad early,” the official told The Indian Express.
But the prudence entails that the selectors will be naming the squad with their fingers crossed in terms of the fitness of a number of their players, and not just Zaheer. A lot can after all go wrong in a month’s time. A Zaheer-led pace attack did struggle to make inroads on India’s previous two foreign tours with the team suffering defeats in both South Africa and New Zealand. And it’ll be interesting to see whether Patil and his colleagues continue to repose their faith on the 35-year-old continued…