Mumbai Ranji team player Sachin Tendulkar during the practice session at Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium in Lahli, Rohtak, in Haryana. (HT Photo/Sanjeev Verma)
Seated on a white plastic chair, Sachin Tendulkar opens his kit bag that consists of at least ten signature bats. He checks them one by one. He changes his shoes, the giant SRT logo visible on his grey socks; he's now ready, but there's no bat in his hand. He walks to an empty strip seemingly reserved for him.
After shadow batting for a few minutes, he heads to the masseur, who is just getting done with Zaheer Khan, Mumbai's captain for the Ranji Trophy game against Haryana that begins on Sunday. Tendulkar gets his back treated before asking the masseur to order a list of things (please see diary).
With the rubdown out of the way, he joins his teammates for catching and fielding practice.
Meticulous as always
Done with those drills, he now walks up to Ajinkya Rahane. Tendulkar tells him a few things before choosing his blade and wearing his blue Mumbai Indians gloves. The two walk towards the reserved strip until Rahane stops and hears his illustrious senior out. "Go around and stand behind the nets," Tendulkar tells him in Marathi. Rahane does that.
Tendulkar faces a series of throwdowns from a young Mumbai bowler. After every ball, he turns to Rahane and appears to be asking him how his feet are moving. Rahane has quite a bit to say.
There is even the "please wait until I tell you I'm ready" gesture made to the bowler, who waits while Tendulkar and Rahane converse between throwdowns. This lasts for thirty-odd minutes before both return to their chairs.
Rahane is still not padded up. They discuss more, and it's evident that Rahane's duty of the day is to help his retiring teammate.
Everyone is packing up now, but Tendulkar asks Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni to assign him a net bowler. A few balls later, Rahane runs across to begin his own series of throwdowns.
The net bowler goes and it's a personal session between Tendulkar and Rahane. The icon walks up to his promising team mate before taking strike again. This lasts for another 20 minutes before they are finally done and Tendulkar heads back to the masseur's table.
Asked about his role, Rahane tells HT: "Yes, I am helping him out. He wants some things from me. But it's not fair for me to disclose what it is exactly. He's too great a batsman and I consider myself blessed to be able to work with him and share the same space."
Rahane is not really known to be close to Tendulkar. However, an India player in his own right, he finally has more access to his childhood hero. Perhaps Tendulkar's passing the torch in Mumbai cricket.