Veteran England pacer James Anderson recently ignited the war of words, claiming that the India skipper Virat Kohli is lying about his personal form and it does matter for him. He also added that Virat is desperate to get runs in the forthcoming five-Test series against England, starting on August 1 at Edgbaston.
However, former India pacer Zaheer Khan believes Anderson will struggle to save his spot in the team if the English conditions don’t favour him.
In an exclusive interview with mid-day.com, Zaheer expressed his views over Anderson’s comment on Kohli, saying: “It is interesting and required too as it makes the game fascinating. I think Anderson is also at a stage in his career where he will need help from the pitches. So, if the wickets which are offered are helpful, you will see him continue to talk [laughs]. But if they are not helpful for seaming conditions, then you might see England debating whether he should play or not after two Tests.”
Talking about the five-Test series, Khan said: “A five-Test series is never going to be easy for any team and that goes for England as well despite being the home team. It has been one of the hottest summers, so that should work in India’s favour. The conditions are going to be dry and we saw that during the T20 and ODI series where there was some assistance for the spinners. Over the years, we have seen in England that when the sun is out, the batsmen will have a field day. These kind of series calls for a lot of mental strength and the group has to stay together.”
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who averages 26.63 in red-ball cricket on English soil, was left out from the 18-member India squad for the first three Tests against England after he aggravated his back problem by playing in the third ODI at Leeds. Kumar’s injury is a huge blow for India given that Jasprit Bumrah is yet to recover from his thumb injury. Although Bumrah has been picked in the Test squad, he will only be considered for selection from the second Test onwards.
With both Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah being ruled out of the first Test, the trio of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami will have to carry the additional responsibility. Moreover, rookie Shardul Thakur and all-rounder Hardik Pandya are also there in the squad.
When asked if India will miss having a left-arm pacer at their disposal, Zaheer said: "A left-arm pacer always gives you that variety. Also, the angle created by them is usually difficult. The second important thing is the footmarks which are created by them usually comes in very handy for the off-spinners to exploit."
Speaking about Shami, whom Zaheer has mentored and captained at Delhi Daredevils, he remarked: “He (Shami) is a great talent. He has natural instinct as a bowler, has a great seam position and his run-up is pretty smooth. So, he has got everything that you need as a bowler. I guess playing at the highest level and representing your country is the biggest motivation one can possibly have.”
Lately, there has been a huge hype surrounding around the Yo-Yo endurance test – a mandatory parameter set by the Indian team management for a place in the national side. The recent instances of players failing the test and subsequently getting snubbed from the team have only proved how serious the Indian team management and BCCI are about fitness.
Zaheer also shared his viewpoint on the Yo-Yo fitness test, stating: “There are various kinds of tests, but the bottomline is that this is just a reference point of knowing where an individual stands when it comes to fitness. Right now, they have gone with the YoYo test, but it need not be the only test that determines fitness. If you are restricted with some kind of a niggle, you can have a comparative test for an individual which I am sure they would be following.”
“I feel it’s a great thing as long as the parameters are constant and applied to each and every individual, no matter what record you have. It is certainly going to help the team raise the bar when it comes to fitness. It is going to empower every individual to pay more attention on making sure that he is fulfilling that (fitness) criteria. It is important to take care of yourself during the off season. These things are decided as a group, so I am sure there must have been enough discussion before implementing this,” he concluded.