Given that he’s spent the better part of 23 years in the spotlight, one can’t exactly label Sachin Tendulkar ‘camera-shy’. But when a bunch of lensmen relentlessly train their super-expensive Canons (no pun intended) on you for a good 20 minutes, then you are bound to feel restless. The maestro, though, didn’t display any sort of uneasiness on the hallowed lawns of the Brabourne Stadium on Friday afternoon. He was certainly not enjoying being part of the circus, but maybe that’s why they say patience is a virtue. He may have posed for a few thousand close-up shots, followed by several takes and retakes for the BCCI-sponsored ‘promo’ of the upcoming series, but his eyes were clearly on his teammates who were itching to kick off the team’s three-day camp with, well, a game of football.
Tendulkar, who was sporting Team India’s Test whites and a navy blue blazer, patiently stood in front of a gigantic bright green board even as the make-up men did their thing. One of them came forward and wiped Tendulkar’s sweaty face with a neatly-folded handkerchief, adjusted his good ol’ curly locks and went back only to repeat the sequence all over again. And like all things, even this one came to an end. Tendulkar took off that blazer in a jiffy before awkwardly walking away. And that’s when he realised that the collar mic was still clipped to his jersey. He got rid of that too before swiftly making his way into the dressing room nearby. Believe it or not, he stepped out sporting the team’s new training gear — purple, of all colours! — in less than three minutes. The restlessness was gone and Tendulkar was clearly at home.
The footballs stayed away for a while and the team — sans Harbhajan Singh, whose flight to the city was delayed by three hours — and its support staff converged into one big hurdle. The ‘bonding’ lasted a good seven minutes after which the team broke into two for some serious football. Yuvraj Singh put the fluorescent bib-sporting side ahead with a close-range shot. MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and goalkeeper Virender Sehwag generously applauded the southpaw’s effort. It was time for Virat Kohli to rise to the occasion. And as is his wont, the Delhi right-hander scored the equaliser with an angled left-footer soon enough. Almost immediately, he went on a solo run before putting the ball well past a stunned Sehwag. Kohli wasn’t done. Two minutes later, he could have got that hat-trick, but he chose to boost R Ashwin’s reputation as a footballer. The off-spinner did wobble, but managed to find the target. Yuvraj then scored his second of the afternoon, and looked good for, maybe, one more. But someone blew a whistle and it ended 3-2 in favour of Kohli & Co.
No time to waste and Gautam Gambhir, Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara and Tendulkar — in that order — lined up to face the net bowlers. While Sehwag was seen facing a lot of left-arm spin (England have Samit Patel and Monty Panesar), Gambhir was content negotiating military medium. As was Tendulkar, who simply squatted every ball that came his way. The second lot of batsmen also had a hit. The bowlers too, notably Zaheer Khan, rolled their arm. The team will have a full session (10 to 4 pm) on Saturday and Sunday before flying to Ahmedabad on November 12 for the first Test which begins on November 15.