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Superstars back in milestone country

cricket Updated: May 17, 2007 04:46 IST
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Bangladesh is a special stop in the cricketing voyage of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, back in the Indian dressing room after having been rested for the one-dayers. Tendulkar scored his record-equalling 34th Test century and personal highest, 248 not out, in Dhaka in 2004. Ganguly, enshrined in the Captaincy Hall of Fame, first led India in a Test in the Bangladeshi capital in 2000.

On Wednesday, the two had their first proper net session for a fresh challenge in the country, the first Test in Chittagong, which starts from Friday. HT watched one (Tendulkar) and listened to another (Ganguly).

The Master’s voice

“PHEKO, JALDI pheko (Throw, quickly),” Sachin Tendulkar told a volunteer when a ball sailed out of the ground during the Indian team's practice. Tendulkar, along with a few of his teammates, was being fed catches when one went over their heads.

“We now have an exclusive quote from Sachin,” a reporter wisecracked. The joke stemmed from the difficulty of getting Tendulkar to agree to an interview (HT's request on Wednesday was politely met but firmly declined).

Other than giving the press cluster something to entertain itself with, there was another thing that Tendulkar's command to the ballboy achieved. It conveyed his urgency to resume practice. That was good to see, whatever cynics may think. It was in Bangladesh that Tendulkar scored his 34th century. But that was December 2004. This is May 2007. Quite a lot has happened in the intervening 29 months.

Indian cricket has experienced churns at several levels, including captaincy, coaching and administration. Importantly, the team and Tendulkar suffered a performance dip. Against this background, the Chittagong Test offers the star a chance to soak in the run bath again. It won't repair the damage of past disappointments but it beats not scoring.

Man on a mission

“It's thanks to the laundry,” Sourav Ganguly said when someone remarked on the somewhat shapeless condition of his India T-shirt. Then he sat down on a plastic chair for a press conference to which he had graciously agreed. “Whatever the form of cricket, you miss it when you are not playing it,” Ganguly said after the nets, “I'm looking forward to the Tests.”

Someone asked him about being dropped for the one-day series. Ganguly corrected him. “We (him and Tendulkar) were rested, there's a difference between the two. It was only for three one-dayers against Bangladesh so that youngsters could be given a chance.”

He denied reports he was joining the cricket league planned by Zee, proceeding to lament the mindless reportage of the contemporary media and suggesting a more responsible manner of functioning. “There has not been any discussion (with Zee), let alone signing. Nor am I going to sign,” Ganguly said. “Please clarify with people before you print anything. They're just a phone call away.”

(Quite a contrast, that. Earlier, Tendulkar had said, “The Board has specifically asked us not to speak to the press.”)

Among other things, Ganguly spent a good amount of time bowling in the nets. He's bowled regularly in one-day cricket, he said. “Besides, it keeps me fit.” A Bangladeshi journalist asked him how it felt to be popular even on “foreign soil”.

“This is not foreign soil to us,” Ganguly said. “I don't think any of us think that way. I enjoy coming to Bangladesh. I've come here quite a few times right from my U-19 days. And I played my first Test as captain here. It's special for me.”

email author: akshay.sawai@hindustantimes.com