Sachin Tendulkar was completely on the backfoot on Saturday — hooking, pulling and cutting with a ferocity that was fascinating to watch.
On a cloudy Saturday morning, Tendulkar, who skipped the game against Sri Lanka A, went to the nets and followed that with a long, strenuous session in front of the bowling machine.
Tendulkar was clearly preparing for the war ahead — having lost a bad-tempered Test at Trent Bridge, England are certain to throw everything hard at the Indians in the third Test at The Oval.
Though India won with ease at Trent Bridge, on the way to victory, they were dealt a few blows that would gladden English hearts and worry the Indians. Christ Tremlett, the gangling young paceman who debuted at Lord’s, bowled with fire on a cracking fifth-day pitch and removed Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik and Tendulkar himself before victory was achieved — all three off deliveries that rose sharply from short of good length. There will be more such deliveries at The Oval.
Tendulkar asked Dinesh Karthik, at the bowling machine, to fire them in quick and short; then the master gave an exhibition of solid defence and fierce attack, leaving balls on or outside the off stump, often letting them pass inches from his face. It was one such ball from James Anderson that had hit Tendulkar on the grille of his helmet during his innings of 91 at Trent Bridge.
When the ball was on middle or leg, he swivelled around and swung with great power. “Wow, that’s a six, paaji,” Karthik chirped with greater frequency as the session progressed.
“Wow, Vivian Richards!” exclaimed Karthik as one shot, fiercer than most, threatened to cleave the nets.
Tendulkar was landed a blow on his chest when one ball did not rise as much as he had anticipated — “Paaji, this pale yellow ball is not bouncing much,” Tendulkar noted.
Karthik then gave Tendulkar an imaginary field — five men on the leg-side, all in position to snare him off the bouncing ball. Tendulkar went on to barrage the leg-side, Karthik shouted encouraging words to the shadow fielders and bowlers.
Then Karthik declared tea, and the watchers rushed down the stairs, to touch their cricketing god — after the gruelling session, it was time for Tendulkar to run the gauntlet past his tiresome admirers.
MS Dhoni, who has confessed that the wobbling ball has been troubling him behind the stumps, donned the gloves in the morning for a long training session. Dhoni was put through his paces by fielding coach Robin Singh and trainer Gergory King, and the focus was on sideways movement and the correct position of the hands at the moment of gathering the ball.
As Singh fired balls at him, Dhoni slithered from side to side, turning around to collect another set of balls from King, positioned on the other side. Dhoni went through this process several times, slumping to the ground to collect his breath after each set. Considering he got out for a duck on Saturday, he could focus on batting now!