India rejoice as Tendulkar takes the field again

Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Mohali:Sachin Tendulkar has returned to competitive cricket after a five-month absence due to elbow surgery, providing a ray of hope to the crisis-ridden Indian team.

Tendulkar, cricket's most prolific batsman with 23,776 international runs and 72 centuries, missed tours to Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe this season and also opted out of the ongoing Super Series in Australia because of the surgery in May to repair a tennis elbow.

The 32-year-old turned out for India Seniors in the domestic Challenger one-day series here on Monday night, making 12 off 15 balls in an eagerly-awaited comeback.

It did not worry coach Greg Chappell that Tendulkar failed to get a big score. It was the master batsman's inspiring presence in the dressing room that mattered more.

The former Australian captain, fresh from a highly-publicised and damaging spat with captain Sourav Ganguly, was delighted to see Tendulkar back in action.

"Players like Sachin don't grow on trees. They are a rare breed," said Chappell, himself one of batting's all-time greats.

"So it is really good to have him back. The Indian team has really missed Sachin in the last few months, both on and off the field.

"Young players look up to him. He is like a mentor to them. His presence will make a difference in any team."

Tendulkar declined to dwell at length on his comeback, saying: "I think I have already spoken a lot. Now it is time for me to play."

That should be good news for an Indian team lacking in confidence in one-day cricket after losing two successive finals this season to hosts Sri Lanka in August and to New Zealand in Zimbabwe last month.

With Tendulkar back in the fray, India can look forward to a brighter future. He is one-day cricket's leading batsman with world record tallies of 13,642 runs and 38 hundreds.

India are scheduled to host a seven-match series against Sri Lanka from October 25, followed by five more limited-overs games against South Africa in November.

There are Test series to follow against Sri Lanka, Pakistan, England and the West Indies until July, and Chappell is aware of the toll it could take on a still-fragile Tendulkar.

"The good thing is that Sachin still has a passion for the game. It is now for us to manage him, on a day-to-day basis if necessary.

"We have to make sure we get the best out of him."

The Indian cricket establishment welcomed Tendulkar's return. Some even suggested the Chappell-Ganguly row would not have taken place if he had been around.

"Sachin would have stepped in to settle any difference," said former Indian cricket chief Inderjit Bindra. "And everyone would have listened to him."

Ganguly claimed on the recent tour of Zimbabwe that he had been asked to step down by the coach because of his poor batting form.

The spat flared up further when Chappell said in a leaked e-mail to the Indian board that the captain was unfit to lead the side, forcing the cricketing chiefs to broker a truce between the two.

"There is no doubt Sachin was missed in Zimbabwe and the earlier we have him back the better," said a team-mate who did not want to be named fearing a backlash from officials.

"What happened in recent months was disgusting. We must get over it quickly and get back to playing good cricket again.

"One person who can ensure that is Sachin. He is a giant in every way."

Tendulkar has scored 10,134 runs in 123 Tests and needs just one more century to break compatriot Sunil Gavaskar's world record of 34 hundreds.

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