Cautious Tendulkar gears up for India comeback

Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:Sachin Tendulkar opens the second innings of his remarkable cricket career next week still hungry for success but wary of his batting prowess after a tennis elbow injury.

The 32-year-old, who has scored a world record 23,776 international runs with 72 centuries, said he will be starting from scratch when he takes the field in the one-day series against Sri Lanka from October 25.

"I am happy to be back and confident, but I am not taking anything for granted," Tendulkar told AFP as he prepared for his first international game since the April 17 one-dayer against Pakistan in New Delhi.

"During a normal off-season, one knows how to go about it, when to begin training, when to get to the nets and polish the rough edges.

"But after the elbow surgery in May, I did not know how long it would take me to pick up a bat, let alone practice in the nets.

"I was wholly dependent on the advice of the doctors. I was itching to get out there and play but could not.

"Cricket has been my life for as long as I can remember so it was not easy to sit out. When I finally got back to the field this month it felt as if I was picking up a bat for the first time."

Playing non-stop cricket since making his Test debut in 1989 aged 16 has taken its toll on Tendulkar's body.

Over the last few years, he has suffered from a broken finger, stiff back, swollen toe and more recently a painful elbow.

The injuries have not dimmed Tendulkar's appetite for runs, but they have changed his approach to the game.

"I have realised there are certain things I cannot do anymore," he said. "Also, over the years I have evolved as a player.

"Earlier, I used to go out and try and smash every ball. My role is different now; play shots, rotate the strike, try and bat as long as possible.

"You have to adjust to the team's requirements. Earlier, I used to play a lot of shots in the air and people used to say why I was doing that.

"Now they say why I do not loft the ball anymore. You just can't please everybody."

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.

He is also one-day cricket's leading batsman with world record tallies of 13,642 runs and 38 hundreds.

Having the veteran back is 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.

India are due to play seven one-dayers at home against Sri Lanka, followed by five more against South Africa before the end of November. This will be followed by Test series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan, England and the West Indies until July.

The key to Tendulkar's -- and India's -- success is how the team management handles it's most experienced, but still physically fragile, batsman.

"It is important to give the elbow adequate rest during the season, I can't afford to overwork it," he said. "I will take it one match at a time before I am confident the elbow can take the strain."

Tendulkar believes India, whose one-day form has slumped since making the World Cup final in 2003, are capable of reversing the tide.

"Winning matches is the only way to lift your confidence," he said. "When you win, you think positively and know you can get out of any situation. When you lose constantly, the positive vibes just vanish.

"But one good victory can change everything. Hopefully we can make that happen this season. Winning is the best medicine for any sports team."

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