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Lanka awaits Tendulkar's return

Local fans say they can't wait to see the master blaster back in action.

india Updated: Aug 10, 2006 19:43 IST

Sri Lankans can't wait to welcome back a fit-again Sachin Tendulkar as India arrive here on Thursday night to play a tri-series also featuring South Africa.

Tendulkar, arguably the most prolific batsmen in history with 35 Test and 39 one-day centuries, returns to the Indian team after being out of action since March due to shoulder surgery.

The Indian media reported the 33-year-old is fit and raring to resume his brilliant 17-year-old career during the seven-match tri-series that opens in Colombo on Monday.

Local fans say they missed Tendulkar a year ago when India played a tri-series in Sri Lanka with the West Indies as the third team. He was then recovering from surgery to mend a tennis elbow injury.

Tendulkar, who also opted out of India's Test tour of the island nation in 2001 because of a broken right toe, last played in Sri Lanka in 2004 during the Asia Cup.

"It's been a long time since he came here, so I am quite excited that Sachin will bat again," said Colombo resident Vijay Wijeratne. "Hope he gets runs, but against South Africa, not us."

Percy Abeysekera, Sri Lanka's most famous cricket cheerleader, almost sounded like an Indian fan when he said Tendulkar was one of his favourite players.

"I have watched the young boy since 1993," he said. "He is a master. I like watching him make runs. I also like watching Sri Lankans get him out early."

Tendulkar is the world's most senior cricketer, having made his debut in 1989. He is also the leading one-day batsman with 14,146 runs from 362 matches and has 10,469 Test runs from 132 games.

India missed his experience on the recent tour of the West Indies where they went down 1-4 to Brian Lara's unheralded team in the one-dayers and managed to squeeze out a 1-0 win in the Tests.

With the World Cup in the Caribbean just seven months away, captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell will want Tendulkar to remain fit and as hungry for runs as before.

India's participation in the tri-series, which guarantees lucrative sponsorship deals because of the huge television audience at home, has brought smiles to the faces of Sri Lanka's cricket administrators.

The title sponsor for the series is a New Delhi-based real estate developer and advertising space inside the two venues, the Premadasa stadium and the Sinhalese sports club, has already been sold out.

The Dubai-based TEN Sports channel, which holds the rights to all cricket played in Sri Lanka, is flying in additional crew for a pre-match special during the seven games.

"This is boom time," a Sri Lankan official said. "India brings in the big bucks."

He declined to reveal the profits likely to come Sri Lanka Cricket's way. "Let's just say it will be very satisfactory," he said.

Sri Lanka accommodated India's request to play the tri-series from mid-August - instead of in September - by reducing the preceding Test series against South Africa from three to two matches.

The Indians will play another tri-series against Australia and the West Indies in Singapore and Malaysia from September 12-24 before hosting the 10-nation Champions Trophy in October-November.

First Published: Aug 10, 2006 11:56 IST