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Tendulkar's personal practice assistant keeps master on his twinkle toes

A man who has never played first-class cricket and seemingly has no credentials to warrant being part of a tour, is shaping as a key part of India's quest to win their first Test series on Australian soil.

What DVGI Raghavindraa lacks in cricket expertise he makes up for with enthusiasm and his presence in Australia is evidence of the great lengths India have gone to break their drought in this country.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Raghavindraa booked his ticket to Australia not through a torrent of runs or a bag of wickets but for his throw-down skills.

And, it's believed, he has come with strong recommendations from Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. It has even been suggested in Indian media that he was asked by Tendulkar to fly to his home in Mumbai last month to help the champion batsman with his Test preparations.

Not much is known about Raghavindraa, who is listed as an "attendant" on a BCCI news release, but he is a shy man of few words.

Indian media reports he is 27, hails from Kumta, a town on India's west coast, and is an employee at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.

But he clearly enjoys a strong rapport with Tendulkar, evident yesterday during a net session at Manuka Oval in which he threw balls at the batting maestro for close to an hour.

It was a task previously performed by former coach Gary Kirsten, who has returned to his native South Africa.

Wearing almost a permanent smile, Raghavindraa, known as Ragu to the Indian players, helped Tendulkar prepare for the barrage of outswingers he is likely to receive from young gun James Pattinson.

The session did not always go to plan. After a series of deliveries on his pads, Tendulkar put his bat down for several minutes to show Raghavindraa the wrist position required to enable the ball to shape away from the right-hander.

A new ball was required to lessen the difficulty but Raghavindraa learnt quickly.

Just two deliveries later, Raghavindraa, unleashing from about three metres in front of the popping crease, sent down an outswinger, which Tendulkar, after shouldering arms, described as "perfect" and gave his thumbs up.

On another occasion, Tendulkar nodded with approval at one that seamed back. "A good ball, but I didn't play it," Tendulkar said.

Raghavindraa's job sounds easy but he is clearly better at it than Tendulkar's teammates.

One player, promising batsman Virat Kohli, raised Tendulkar's ire on two fronts within a handful of throws. It was not until Kohli struck Tendulkar in the midriff with an off-cutter that he heeded his decorated teammate''s warning to bowl outswingers from several paces further back.

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