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A glimpse of how Sachin batted in the nets

A glimpse of how batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar batted in the nets ahead of the third Test against WI

It was as if a deity had stopped all activities with his captivating aura. The distinctive adjustment of the shin guard, moving his head up and down on a few occasions, walking down the long fleet of stairs from the dressing room to the hallowed turf of the Wankhede Stadium. Sachin Tendulkar was preparing for his final batting session before today's third and final Test match against West Indies.


Sachin Tendulkar plays his favourite straight drive during net practice
ahead of the third Test match at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai yesterday.
Pic/Suresh KK


The West Indies batsmen were already at the nets, the local net bowlers enjoying their time. But a quick gaze at the 'stairway from heaven' and most of them were eager to move over to the other end of the ground where the Indian batsmen were preparing for their own nets, though they were aware that a bunch of other net bowlers were already assigned to bowl at Tendulkar and the Indians.

A few of them walked half way across and realised 'the lucky ones' had already assembled. They went back to bowling at the visiting camp but not without one eye firmly planted on Tendulkar. Tendulkar slowly made his way to bat as some of the net bowlers silently quarreled who would get their first shot. The first boy bowled a quickish in-swinger that he drove down the ground. The master shook his head once, applauding the youngster.
 
The next bowler, with an action resembling Sri Lanka's Dilhara Fernando, bowled a short one that Tendulkar pulled with ease. This went one for close for thirty minutes until his teammates -- Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin had a crack. Though Ojha beat him in the air a few times, Ashwin bore the brunt of his aggressive frame of mind. That has been the case with Tendulkar in the last few days. On Sunday afternoon, he tore into Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron at the nets -- at deliveries that he'd usually treat with respect. On Saturday, Tendulkar batted at BKC for an hour before heading off for a promotional event.

It would be safe to state that the master is determined as ever to get that elusive hundredth international hundred, give Indians across the world a weekend to remember. Ask teammate VVS Laxman if "Tendulkar was putting in a special preparation for the 100th international hundred" and he puts things in perspective: "Right from the first time I saw him, he always prepares special. All his preparation has been special -- for each and every Test. That's been the hallmark of Sachin. He takes each and every practice session so seriously.

Irrespective of whether he's reaching a milestone or not, he's always ready both physically and mentally. And that's why he's been around for so much time and has been a match-winner for so long." The net sessions after Gary Kirsten's exit must feel different for Tendulkar. Duncan Fletcher is not the sort to take him aside and give him throwdowns for an hour, like Kirsten used to. Fletcher prefers to observe the run of play. There's also not a lot of conversation that takes place.

In fact, Tendulkar hasn't scored a hundred since Kirsten's departure. Fletcher would perhaps be reminded of that if the trend continued into Australia.

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