Zaheer departs to leave Indian attack in tatters


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The Independent Online

India continued to give the impression yesterday that their plans for the tour of England were written on the back of a fag packet as Zaheer Khan, their leading fast bowler, was withdrawn from the squad because of injury, and was replaced by another left-arm swing bowler, R P Singh.

Zaheer injured a hamstring after bowling 13.3 overs in England's first innings of the first Test. He has been recovering since and returned to action in the tourists' two-day match in Northampton on Saturday. He left the field after bowling three overs and it was announced yesterday that not only was he suffering from a recurring hamstring strain but will need surgery on a right ankle injury, which will keep him out for 14 to 16 weeks.

If this seemed at odds with previous prognoses, which suggested Zaheer would return for the third Test, beginning at Edgbaston on Wednesday, it was matched for confusion by the call-up of R P Singh. Although Singh played an important part in India's Test series victory in this country in 2007, his star has been on the wane since, but India seem to think he has a future after all.

Zaheer is the third member of the party to have his tour ended this week, joining the batsman Yuvraj Singh and the spinner Harbhajan Singh. Although India will be heartened by the return of Virender Sehwag following shoulder surgery, he will be desperately short of match practice. If this will hardly bother a batsman of Sehwag's rare attacking prowess, he can do little or nothing to help them take the 20 wickets they are likely to need to win a Test.

England remain buoyant despite the absence for the match of Jonathan Trott, confirmed when their squad of 13 was announced on Saturday. In his place comes Ravi Bopara, with whom the selectors, to their credit, have kept faith. Bopara might have been overtaken in the pecking order by James Taylor, who has done well during his appearances for England Lions, but Bopara, whose last Test was the fourth match in the 2009 Ashes series, began the season well with Essex and was almost picked ahead of Eoin Morgan for the first Test against Sri Lanka. Overlooked then, he had a lean time of it until a fortnight ago when scoring 178 on a testing surface at Southend.