Chennai, Dec 12: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said Monday that the presence of experienced pace bowler Zaheer Khan will greatly improve the team's chances of winning an upcoming four-test series in Australia.
"The bowling looks good now as Zaheer is back in the side and Umesh Yadav can bowl at over 140 kilometers (88 miles) per hour," Dhoni said before the team's departure for the four-test series that starts in Melbourne on Dec. 26. "This team can beat Australia."
Khan, who has taken 273 wickets in 79 tests, has recovered from hamstring and ankle injuries that he sustained during a tour of England this summer.
The 33-year-old was named as an additional member to the squad of 16 subject to fitness, which he has had to prove in domestic cricket.
Coach Duncan Fletcher had indicated that Khan's fitness needed to be assessed in practice games.
"He has looked to be in very good condition but we do not want to rush him into it (test matches)," Fletcher said. "The practice games will be important for him."
Khan's presence assumes significance after India has already had to withdraw two first-choice pace bowlers due to injuries. Praveen Kumar (rib) and Varun Aaron (back) have been replaced by Abhimanyu Mithun and uncapped Vinay Kumar.
Ishant Sharma is the only other bowler apart from Zaheer to have played tests in Australia as spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha are also making their first trip there for a test series.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was not picked.
"The new bowlers have done well in the opportunities they have got and have stepped up when the main bowlers weren't available. Our bowlers are talented and they will improve with experience," Dhoni said.
"It is important to have a slow buildup for bowlers and so the practice games will be useful ahead of the Boxing Day test," said Dhoni, who was rested for a five-game one-day home series against the West Indies that ended on Sunday.
"I am feeling mentally fresh after the break and am looking forward to the Australian tour. I feel we have enough time to prepare for the first test," Dhoni said.
Dhoni added that the experience of his batting lineup is likely to provide a boost to the team.
"Many of our players have played in Australia before and that will help us. If you see, the batting lineup is quite similar (to the one that toured Australia in 2007-08)," he said.
India has an experienced batting lineup that includes Sachin Tendulkar, who is looking for a 100th international century.
Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are the other experienced batsmen in the team.
India will play two practice games against Cricket Australia Chairman's XI in Canberra - a two-day fixture (Dec. 15-16) followed by a three-day fixture (Dec. 19-21).
The tests will be played in Melbourne (Dec. 26-30), Sydney (Jan. 3-7), Perth (Jan. 13-17) and Adelaide (Jan. 24-28).
After the tests, India will play two Twenty20 games against Australia and participate in a triangular one-day series that also includes Sri Lanka.