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Friday, December 10, 2010

Sachin knocked over.He will be ready to face the Proteas next Thursday

Dec 10, 2010 1:42 AM | By Craig Ray

India's batting maestro was felled by a bouncer in the nets at Claremont Cricket Club. To add insult to injury, he was knocked over by one of his own.

Facing a battery of Indian seam bowlers on another sweltering day in Cape Town, Tendulkar was taken by surprise as a ball from 23-year-old Umesh Yadav reared up from back of a length.

Tendulkar ducked straight into the ball, which clattered into his helmet. The clang sounded serious but Tendulkar was only shaken and physically unhurt. He will be ready to face the Proteas next Thursday in the first Test.

Tendulkar is the most genial of men, but he was clearly irritated by the incident, possibly because he made the mistake of ducking into the ball instead of away from it.

When Yadav apologised from a distance, the Indian great spoke sharply to him and the young bowler rapidly came down the wicket to make a more humble apology.

Tendulkar will face much faster and livelier bowling on this tour and won't receive the same deferential treatment from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

He will no doubt have realised that his immense powers of concentration will be tested in the face of the South African pace barrage that will materialise.

However, the incident, which ended without injury and saw Tendulkar immediately return to the crease and continue to strike the ball with deadly precision, was exactly what coach Gary Kirsten wanted.

India have never won a series in South Africa, largely because the batsmen have been exposed against pace and bounce.

Kirsten's main objective before the first Test at Centurion, starting on December 16, is to ensure his top order have acclimatised to the conditions. And lesser men than Tendulkar are going to kop some bruises along the way.

Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virendar Sehwag and MS Dhoni were among the top batters that each spent in excess of an hour in the nets. Tendulkar perhaps had a little longer, having started with throw downs from Kirsten.

The coach was impressed with what he saw, and after Tendulkar had creamed a dozen of Kirsten's best throws with his mighty bat, the coach was moved to say: "It's already fizzing off the middle, Sach."

There is no substitute for the real thing, of course, but the Indian batsmen were certainly picking up the pace and bounce of a group of eager young net bowlers.

Some were wild, but they were quick and the cocktail certainly made the batsmen stay watchful.

"I haven't given the bowlers specific instructions to bowl short in the nets, but you know what it's like. As soon as a fast bowler sees some bounce the ball starts fizzing around the batsman's head," Kirsten said.

"I'm not worried about injuries because that's what happens at nets. It happens in India as well and it's not something I can control. We just hope that no one gets too badly injured if they take a knock."

Kirsten said he wanted his top order to face between 2000 and 3000 balls before the first Test and most of them received in excess of 300 deliveries yesterday.

Tendulkar is in search of his 50th Test century and the amount of time he will spend in the nets before D-day is sure to improve his chances of reaching that incredible milestone.

He has a career Test batting average of 56.55, but in South Africa his record shows a more modest average of 39.76. It's his lowest average against any country away from home.

For India to win their first series over here, the feeling is that Tendulkar will have to bat closer to his overall career average.

And after being struck on the head, his technique looked even more solid and his ball striking crisper.

Is it an ominous sign for the home team?

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