~~I never had doubt about Sachin~~s return~~

Published: Thursday, March 2, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:Admittedly ''affronted'' by those who wrote premature obituary to Sachin Tendulkar's career, Team India coach Greg Chappell criticised the naysayers and said he was always confident of the little master regaining his old touch.

Tendulkar's poor return of 63 runs in three innings in Pakistan tour had provoked criticism in certain sections but Chappell felt it was completely unwarranted.

''After the Karachi Test a few people asked me if I was worried about him (Tendulkar). I wasn't,'' Chappell said in an interview with Cricinfo Magazine.

''The signs had been there in the second innings. His footwork looked sharp and there were two or three shots he played against Shoaib (Akhtar). I knew a big innings was around the corner. In the third One-dayer he played a monumental innings, given the context of the series and the difficult conditions.''

Rubbishing the notion that Tendulkar was walking into the sunset of his career, Chappell said, ''When I was a kid, we used to watch westerns on Saturday morning. It was pretty simplistic stuff, with the good guys wearing white hats and the bad guys in black ones...

But, I sometimes get the feeling that the media seems to be supporting the black hats.'' ''If we reward the white ones, India can be the best team in the world. If we stick by the black hats, though, no chance,'' the coach went on to say.

He said Sachin has been a role model for Team India ''with the way he prepares, the way he takes on challenges and the way he deals with more pressure than perhaps any other man in the history of the game''.

The 57-year-old Aussie also praised Yuvraj Singh for his contribution in the ODI win against Pakistan. ''He was a bit confused earlier in the season. He didn't know whether he was just a One-day player, whether he had a future in Tests, where he fitted in with this batting line-up. He's scored four hundreds since, and they've invariably been match-turning.

He could have gone one way or the other, but thankfully for Indian cricket he's matured into a senior player who's close to being at the top of his game.'' Chappell also paid handsome praise to Irfan Pathan for his achievements.

''It's time people accepted that he'll never be an express fast bowler. But, show me how many players in the history of the game have done what he has at 21. His role model is someone like Chaminda Vaas or Kapil Dev, who could swing the ball with control at a decent pace. The way his batting has come on has been exceptional as well.''

Comparing R P Singh with another Aussie pacer Bruce Reid, Chappell said, ''He gets a bit of bounce and reminds me a bit of Bruce Reid, though he's not as lanky. He's only 20 and when he gets stronger he can easily add another 5 kph in terms of pace. That's quite substantial given he's no slouch now.''

He said India lost the Karachi Test due to lack of variety in their attack.

''I felt that there was a sameness to our attack in the Tests and Sree (Sreesanth) gave us another option. What we needed was someone who could bowl wicket-taking deliveries and keep getting the edge.'' ''The boy is a thinker and we need to keep faith in such personalities,'' Chappell said of Sreesanth.

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