New Delhi: Zaheer Khan, the India fast bowler, has said his recovery from ankle surgery has been slow but positive so far, and that he has not set a timeframe for his return to international cricket.
"The first phase of my rehab programme went off pretty well," Zaheer told the media after receiving India's Arjuna Award from the country's sports minister in New Delhi on Monday. "I have started with the second phase of my rehab. I will soon be going to the National Cricket Academy. My progress has been slow but positive.
"To start bowling, I have to get back the full strength in my ankle. Then I might play a few club matches or first-class matches. I am taking one day at a time and not setting any targets."
Zaheer was originally diagnosed with a hamstring injury during India's first Test against England at Lord's in July this year, but was later ruled out of the remainder of the series with a right ankle impingement that required surgery followed by a 14-16 week period of rehabilitation. When asked whether he was eyeing India's tour of Australia later this year as a target for his return, Zaheer said he was simply taking it day by day.
"I have not decided on any date but I will be back very soon. It's frustrating not to play at the highest level. But you can only control [only] the 'controllables' and be patient."
Commenting on the India team for the home one-day series against England, Zaheer said he expects the dropped Harbhajan Singh to fight his way back into the squad. "Harbhajan has produced great performances for the country. I am sure that he will be back soon, as he is too good a player to be left out. He has a lot of fire in him and he is a strong character.
India's bowling attack struggled in England without Zaheer's leadership and ability, and he said knowing how much the team needs him spurs him on to perform better. "It always acts as a motivation when your team needs you. I don't think the over-dependence on me adds to any pressure, rather it feels good to go to sleep with this kind of expectation. Hopefully, I will be back soon to play that role again."