Fielding guru Jonty Rhodes says Sachin Tendulkar is too good a player to be kept out of the team only because he cannot throw from the deep and that the Indian team must shield him with next year's World Cup in mind.
"Even if he can't field from the deep, you have to have him at mid-off or mid-on and protect him. Because I don't think it is going to take a whole year till the World Cup for him to be 100 per cent fit," the former South African player turned fielding coach said in Colombo on Saturday.
The 37-year-old said Tendulkar would walk into any side purely as a batsman and his "discipline" would see him through the present injury situation.
"I have seen how he works as a batsman at the nets, he is very disciplined. And I expect him to do the same sort of rehab on his shoulders," Rhodes told PTI.
"It is a confidence thing for him. If he is happy that his shoulder is fine, and if you have a guy like Sachin Tendulkar who is back in form, then you have to have him in the team.
"I would be inclined to have him in the team, just based on his past performance."
Rhodes was a revelation as a fielder and his breaking on to the international scene coincided with return of South Africa to international sports in the 1990s when they set the standards for and changed the dimension of fielding.
He said the reason for injuries related to the throwing arm was actually because the fielders don't throw often when on the field.
"Yes, the international schedule is cramped now but when I played I kept throwing all the time," Rhodes said.
"The problem with current players is that a lot of them are quiet for 5-6 overs and then suddenly they throw. What happens is your shoulders are not warm, resulting in injuries.
"Today's throwing technique is also not correct, which is what I am trying to work with the South African team."
Rhodes did not accept that South Africa's fielding standards have fallen in recent times.
"I don't think we have lost it. It is just that every team has realised the importance of fielding," he said.
"I would rather say that we have back-toed a bit while other teams have also caught up with us. It is also that we set really high standards for ourselves to maintain.
"We will be working on that, but it won't be a major overhaul, only just adopting a few new things."
He also rebutted suggestions that his absence on the field was a reason for South Africa having gone back in fielding.
"I don't think so. I was fairly energetic and contagious but it was not my or any other player's conscious job to lift the team. It was a good bit of team work. The team was able to feed off me but I did not do anything impossible."
Rhodes said him being the coach did not necessarily mean South Africa would be a better fielding team as that depended on each player's attitude to fielding.
"It is more about the individual attitude. It is about every player expecting every ball to come to him," he said.
"I can coach but it is the player who has to come up with the attitude."
On the South African team, Rhodes said they had proved in recent times that they were not chokers anymore.
"Wasn't chasing 434 enough," Rhodes shot back when South Africa's 1999 World Cup exit with a tie to Australia in the semifinals and their recent one-wicket loss in the second Test to Sri Lanka was mentioned.
"The defeat to Sri Lanka was more about us coming closer that much. Sri Lanka had the game in their grasp and we fought back.
"At lunch on the last day, they had to score 18 runs or so and had four wickets remaining," he pointed out.
Rhodes agreed that a two-Test series does not do justice to visiting sides.
"If you ask the players, they would want to play three Tests," he said.
"It (two-Test series) would definitely suit the home side but it would be different if the visiting team had lot of cricket under their belt.
"We were coming from off season but no excuse (for the 2-0 series loss). Full credit to Sri Lanka. Mahela Jayawardene's 374 was a record and it was too good for even the South Africans to watch."