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All eyes on Tendulkar in today's World Cup warm-up game

cricket Updated: Feb 16, 2011 18:29 IST

Highlight Story

Superstar batsman Sachin Tendulkar returns to bolster India's batting line-up on Wednesday as the World Cup favourites play their last warm-up game ahead of the much-anticipated tournament opener.

India take on New Zealand in their second and final practice match in Chennai ahead of the first World Cup clash against co-hosts Bangladesh in Dhaka on Saturday.

The other top team in action on Wednesday is England, playing minnows Canada as the three-time finalists look for a confidence boost after a 6-1 mauling at the hands of Australia, the top-ranked ODI side.

As teams finalise their preparations, on Tuesday strongly fancied Sri Lanka comfortably beat the West Indies, South Africa thumped three-times defending champions Australia and Pakistan crushed Bangladesh.

Tendulkar, who has a record 17,629 runs in a stellar ODI career, missed Sunday's win over Australia, a legacy of the hamstring injury that forced him to cut short his participation in the recent ODI series in South Africa.

But he came through a long net session on Tuesday and is poised to open the batting against the Black Caps in what will be only his third one-dayer since his historic double-century against South Africa in Gwalior a year ago.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, disappointed with the batting against Australia, issued a rallying call on Tuesday, saying India "need to pick up intensity as we progress into the World Cup."

"We have a very good side," said Dhoni. "That is what I have said always. I don't believe in comparisons. We have a mix of players who are very good.

"But obviously what we have on paper is not important, it is what we do on the field which matters. We need to see what the conditions are and pick our best 11 accordingly."

Dhoni said bowling spearhead Zaheer Khan would be rested for Wednesday's warm-up to allow him to be fresh for the tournament opener.

Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke dismissed his team's disappointing form in the warm-ups after defeats to South Africa and India and vowed to shape up in time for the main event.

"A practice game is a practice game. So it's important to maximise the chance to give everybody the opportunity to bat and bowl, and more importantly, to get used to the conditions," he said.

The World Cup is being hosted jointly by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

India, winners in 1983, are placed in Group B with England, South Africa, Bangladesh, the Netherlands, the West Indies and Ireland.

Group A features Australia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya.

Teams will face sudden-death after the preliminary league. The second round format was revived to ensure a team plays a minimum of six matches even if they do not make the next round.

Meanwhile, England off-spinner Graeme Swann has urged officials not to make the World Cup a closed shop for cricket's elite nations.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is trying to slim down the existing 14-team tournament which will stretch to a stamina-sapping six weeks, to a 10-team contest in 2015.

But as there are 10 Test playing countries, the second-tier sides believe they will be frozen out as none of the major teams will accept a change to a system where they all now qualify as of right.

"Why would you want to take the world out of the World Cup? Shocks can happen," the England off-spinner said in an interview with the March edition of the Wisden Cricketer magazine.