Team of the walking wounded takes another blow, Zaheer out

Farewells and welcomes continued at Team India's hotel today. While spinner Pragyan Ojha was checking in, injured pacer Zaheer Khan was busy packing his bags to go back home. On a lazy Sunday afternoon in Northampton, the medical update from the team management — a daily ritual from a camp full of the walking wounded — informed that R P Singh was to take Zaheer's place in the side, a change that has further diminished the morale of a team that trails 0-2 before the third Test starting on Wednesday.

After Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer became the third senior to be ruled out of the final two Tests. Zaheer's eighth injury-related comeback in the past four years lasted just 13.3 overs, on the first day of the series. He exited the field, clutching his hamstring at the start of the final session. In the physio's company, the left-armer made an attempt at recovery in the tour game against Northamptonshire on Saturday, but after three overs, threw in the towel.

There was a view in the Indian dressing room that Zaheer should have flown home after the first Test as the injury seemed severe, but the pacer was keen that he stay back. Even the seniors in the side were ready to wait and watch, but as it turned out, it was more than a mere hamstring strain. An additional 'right ankle impingement' was also detected that would require surgery, keeping Zaheer out of action for 14 to 16 weeks. It remains to be seen how long Zaheer can cope with a dodgy hamstring, ankle, shoulder, knee and groin — his injury zones in the last four years — to make a significant return to international cricket.

Zaheer's replacement happens to be the long-forgotten left-arm pacer R P Singh, who last played a Test in 2008. While what must have gone in his favour was his phenomenal showing on the last England tour in 2007, the only time he has bowled against quality international batting in the past two years has been during the Indian Premier League.

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