Tendulkar sidelined as India gear up for Pak series

Published: Sunday, February 6, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:Sachin Tendulkar's absence stands out glaringly as India's rusty cricketers flex their limbs to prepare for next month's highly-anticipated series against Pakistan.

Tendulkar, the most prolific batsman in contemporary cricket with 34 Test and 37 one-day centuries, has still not fully recovered from a tennis elbow injury sustained in August last year.

The 31-year-old, who last played in Bangladesh in December, was advised by doctors not to pick up a bat for six weeks, a period that ends in mid-February.

Tendulkar will miss the Challenger one-day series, featuring the country's top 36 players, which starts here on Monday, and a major part of the subsequent inter-zonal Duleep Trophy first-class tournament.

But sources close to the star player indicate that Tendulkar will be fit to play in the Test series against Pakistan starting on March 4.

"He has taken doctors' advice very seriously," a Bombay team-mate said. "I don't think he wants to play in pain again as he did for most of the season."

Tendulkar was rushed back from injury for two of the four Tests against Australia in October and also played against South Africa and Bangladesh - scoring a double-century against the minnows.

As Tendulkar rests, the other Indian probables will spend the next three weeks gearing up for the Pakistan series. Most of the top stars have not played competitive cricket since the Bangladesh tour.

The probables have been divided into three teams for the Challenger series with Test captain Sourav Ganguly leading India seniors, vice-captain Rahul Dravid in charge of India A and Virender Sehwag captaining India B.

All matches will be played under lights at the Wankhede stadium with each team playing the other once in the league. The top two sides will clash in the final on Thursday.

The players will then disband to represent their respective zones in the Duleep Trophy tournament.

"These are three important weeks to prepare for Pakistan," said Ganguly on Sunday. We should be fighting fit by the time they get here."

Pakistan, expected to arrive on February 25, will play three Tests and five one-day internationals on their first tour of India in six years.

With a settled batting line-up and two world-class spinners in Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in hand, the selectors' main worry is finding a suitable wicket-keeper who can also bat.

Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik played in the Test series earlier this season, while Mahender Dhoni was picked for the one-dayers against Bangladesh.

The three will keep wicket for their respective sides in the Challenger series and the Duleep Trophy.

"We are looking for an all-rounder to balance the team and it will help to have a 'keeper who can also contribute with the bat," said chairman of selectors Kiran More, himself a former Test wicket-keeper.

Frequent injuries to pace bowlers have also not helped India's cause, but Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar, Laxmipathy Balaji and Ashish Nehra are fit to play the trial matches.

Off-spinner Harbhajan will miss the Challenger tournament to visit Australia for corrective action on his bowling arm after he was reported by English match referee Chris Broad during the Bangladesh tour.

Read more about: mumbai, news, thatscricketcom, february 6
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