MUMBAI: Former India seamer and Mumbai coach Balwinder Singh Sandhu feels that veteran pacer Zaheer Khan should be picked for India's tour of South Africa later this year as his years of experience at the international level would come in handy.
"Given a choice between an in-form youngster and a fully fit Zaheer Khan, I would pick the latter. Zaheer has the experience and has got performances to back his claim. He is a proven performer. In South Africa, Zaheer will prove to be useful," he told reporters on the sidelines of book launch on the victorious under-19 team that won the World Cup in Australia last year.
The book titled 'Teen Thunder Down Under' has been written by journalist Gaurav Joshi.
Elaborating on Zaheer, Sandhu, a member of the 1983 World Cup winning squad said, "He (Zaheer) is an intelligent bowler. His training and match schedule is ready I believe. He will play matches before he is picked to go to (South Africa) and match-fitness is also important. Zaheer is an experienced player and he knows what needs to be done. That's precisely why he is trying to improve his fitness."
Sandhu insisted that all the players would need to improve their fitness in order to earn a berth in the side.
"All the players, whether it is Zaheer or a new player, everybody needs to work on their fitness. Everybody will have to work hard.
"At the end of the day, the player who wants to play for the country will have to perform. Even if you get into the team on basis of past performances, one won't get more than couple of matches."
"But even in those one or two matches, you need to perform. I am sure if Zaheer's fitness is good, he will definitely perform well and get into the team," he said.
Sandhu also added that India's cupboard isn't bare as far as pace bowling is concerned.
"We definitely have a good lot of pace bowlers. They are doing well, training and performing well. Now you have to think that spinners are not there."
He also backed discarded openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir stating, "Both are big match players. Gautam has proved he is a good player and so has Sehwag. All they need is one good innings and a good fitness level. One or two innings and Sehwag will get into runs... And on that confidence he performs."
He advised Bhuvneshwar Kumar to continue bowling in the same manner and said, "Bhuvneshwar is a swing bowler. He won't be able to bowl fast. If he tries to bowl quick, he might lose out on swing and will never be the same bowler again. His basic action is of a swing bowler. He should stick to swing bowling and can bring out variations in his moving deliveries.
On Sachin Tendulkar playing his much-anticipated 200th Test match in South Africa, he said, "Playing 200 matches at club level itself is a big thing. This is 200 Test matches we are talking about. It is a great achievement, physically and mentally."