Zaheer is confident that the side will do whatever is necessary to win the series

Lean, mean and ready to fire, Zaheer Khan has already shot off the first salvo at the South Africans ahead of the two-Test series that commences at the Wanderers Stadium here on December 18.

Having dismissed the Proteas Test captain Graeme Smith six times in nine Tests, he was asked about holding an edge against the southpaw during Thursday’s media interaction. Zaheer quipped: “I think I just have to turn up there!”

“Having said that, Graeme Smith has got a terrific record in Test matches. He is a good leader, and it’s good to have that advantage,” the left-arm seamer said.

The senior-most member of the Indian Test squad at 35, Zaheer’s last Test match was at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens in December 2012. He has since worked his way past injuries and form-woes, and has had fitness-enhancement stints in France and skill-work sessions in South Africa.

Zaheer declared that all the talk about India nursing scars following defeats in the just-concluded ODI series, was just hot-air.

“You can talk as much as you like outside. Once you go on to the field, it’s all about doing. I think this Indian team will do the needful and whatever it’s going to take to win this series,” he said.

Needing just five wickets to join the 300-club in Tests, Zaheer spent his time away from the Indian team, introspecting and sweating it out in equal measure.

“When I decided that I had to make a comeback, I had to have a strategy. The first phase was in France, and the second was with Adrian le Roux here in Bloemfontein — that was more on the skill-front and I really enjoyed it. I spent about three weeks here practising with the local side as well,” Zaheer said.

Besides long hours in the gym and at the nets, Zaheer also bowled a few spells in domestic cricket.

“I have played enough First Class cricket, and have bowled over 200 overs. Right now, I am happy with the way I am able to sustain through a five-day game,” he said.

Having arrived early with other Test specialists, Zaheer, who watched his fellow-seamers’ performance in the ODIs, believes that there is no cause for worry.

“As the matches went on, they (the seamers) got better, and in another week’s time, things will be even better. Obviously, to bowl with a white Kookaburra ball and a red Kookaburra ball, there is a difference. But I am sure, come Test match, it will be a different ball game,” Zaheer said.

Talking about the technical adjustments that the Indian fast-bowling unit has to make, Zaheer said: “The wickets here are more the hit-the-deck kind. That adjustment you will probably have to make, as a bowler coming from India.”

Zaheer is no stranger to victories in South Africa. He was part of the squads that won Tests (Wanderers in 2006 and Kingsmead in 2010) here in the past, and that memory holds him in good stead.

“You’ve got to have that belief, got to back yourself and play good cricket. You need to have good days together and keep coming back all the time. That was our success-mantra during the earlier tours, and on this tour, we will look to do the same,” he said.

India may have been rolled over in the ODIs, but with Zaheer back, the bowling will hope to bare its fangs in the Tests.

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