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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Welcome to SA, Sachin!


2010-12-09 13:57
Sachin Tendulkar (File)

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Some evidence was served at Claremont Cricket Club here on Thursday that Sachin Tendulkar is a mere mortal after all.

The most recognisable current cricketer in the world and established all-time great made Indian hearts stop collectively for a second or two on a sweltering morning at the nets as he took a meaty blow on the side of the helmet from Test-squad team-mate Umesh Yadav.

He was batting on a strip which was – deliberately, apparently – slightly resembling a “fourth-day” one in a Test match in South Africa, with some challenging, up-and-down sort of bounce.

A delivery from the rookie right-arm paceman, uncapped in Tests, caught the little maestro flush on the left side of the helmet as he ducked, expecting the ball to rear up higher and pass overhead.

Tendulkar, a 37-year-old veteran of 174 Tests, took the very audible whack with great calmness, even as colleagues in both his and the other nets swiftly turned heads out of concern for their star batsman’s well-being.

But Tendulkar simply stooped a little, removed the helmet and inspected it, while bowler Yadav was able to confirm that his head also had no special visible evidence of the blow.

Tendulkar then carried on serenely as if nothing had happened and shortly afterwards the brisk Sree Sreesanth, by contrast, sent him a shortish ball that barely climbed to calf height, which caused some amusement.

It was all part of coach Gary Kirsten’s intention, without the benefit of a warm-up match, to simulate as best as possible conditions his side might well experience in the three-Test series against the Proteas, starting at Centurion on Thursday week.

The Indian players have been arriving in this city in batches for the “camp”, with such other stellar figures as captain MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma now also fully involved.

VVS Laxman is expected to be added for Friday’s session at the same venue and then the remaining Indian players taking part in the closing stages of the one-day series against New Zealand will also fly out to complete the party.

“You can’t control these sorts of situations in a net environment,” said Kirsten afterwards of Tendulkar’s minor scare. “It even happens in India; guys get hit on the glove and so on. You just have to hope nothing too serious occurs.

“Interestingly enough the one net here is pretty flat and low and the other is going around a bit. The guys wanted to use the one that was more (spicy) - I’m pretty excited about that; we’ll use the one that’s going around a bit again tomorrow.”

Kirsten confirmed to Sport24 that the format of the practice session would be slightly different on Friday, with a greater “middle” theme.

“Yes, we’re going to have a more ‘open’ session ... take the nets down and we’ll have a staggered sort of (in-field) session throughout the day – quite a long one.”

Skipper Dhoni was a little more reclusive toward the media, politely refusing to answer questions when approached by saying that “the tour starts properly on Monday”, when the squad will switch to the Highveld.

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