Sachin Tendulkar was among the first Mumbai batsmen to hit the nets at the Wankhede on Monday. Half an hour into the team’s first training session after their 40th Ranji win, the maestro went after a widish ball only to be beaten. A loud cry of disappointment followed.
That was probably the only blemish in his hour-long net session two days prior to Mumbai’s Irani Cup tie against Rest of India. Tendulkar played a wide range of strokes — drives, cuts, lofts et al — besides displaying his rock-solid defence. And he didn’t stop at that. Fifteen minutes later, he opted for a 20-minute throwdown session, focusing on the ‘V’.
On Wednesday, Tendulkar will play his first Irani Cup match after almost a decade. With just a single half-century and four single-digit scores in the England series, Tendulkar turned to domestic cricket to find his purple patch again. The Irani match will be his last attempt at that before the all-important Australia series starts in Chennai on February 22. Sample this: Tendulkar played four matches for Mumbai this Ranji season, scoring two tons. The last time he played four Ranji games was in 1993-94.
His Irani Cup statistics are even more interesting. He last played the traditional season opener (not anymore) in September 2003 when a star-studded RoI side defeated Mumbai (led by Tendulkar) by three wickets. He had played just two Irani games prior to that, for Bombay in 1995 (Bombay won that) and for RoI in 1989 against Delhi, scoring an unbeaten 103.
Sachin scored 94 and 50 in that nailbiter in 2003, and the Aussies bore the brunt of his fury. India travelled to Australia in December and Tendulkar scored that epic 241* in the fourth Test in Sydney. In the next Test against Pakistan in Multan, he cracked 194*. How India would love for that to happen again this time around!
“It is great for Mumbai and Sachin himself that he is playing. There is no substitute to match practice, especially against a good Rest of India attack. It’ll benefit him immensely,” Dilip Vengsarkar told DNA.