It's just past 8 am on Friday morning. And one by one, the Mumbai players have begun trickling into the Wankhede Stadium for their practice session. Some have already commenced their warm-up and stretching routines.
Just then, a flashy blue-coloured BMW zooms into the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) complex, its engine whirring and leaving everyone around in awe. The impressive vehicle stalls near the Mumbai dressing-room, and out steps Sachin Tendulkar, armed with three bats and his kit-bag flung over his right shoulder. Like always, his arrival is welcomed with a number of camera flashes, and gushing whispers.
This is Tendulkar’s first appearance on a cricket ground since the time he announced his retirement from the ODI format last week. The 39-year-old had returned from Mussoorie, where he had been for a family vacation, only a couple of days earlier.
And on Friday, following a dreadful Test series against England, the keenness to shake off the rustiness and get back to his usual self was all too evident in Tendulkar. He spent close to 30 minutes in the nets. Tendulkar did look out of touch to start with as Dhawal Kulkarni rapped him on the pads on a couple of occasions, while even a couple of net bowlers managed to beat his outside-edge. But he soon got into his rhythm, stroking the ball like only he can.
Sunday will not be the first occasion this season that Tendulkar will be turning up for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy. He had in fact scored a century despite an upset stomach in his team’s campaign opener against Railways back in November. And there is a good chance, Mumbai will be buoyed with his presence for the rest of their Ranji campaign, that is if they do manage to progress past the quarterfinal stage.
Meanwhile, on the sidelines, Tendulkar revealed to The Indian Express that he had been watching India’s ODI performances against Pakistan on television. While his teammates might have come under heavy criticism following their series loss, Tendulkar urged that this was the time Team India required all the support they could get from their beloved fans.
“The only thing which I can say at the moment is that the Indian team needs the nation’s support. Their support is very important at this stage. I’m confident that the team will do well ahead,” Tendulkar admitted after his team’s practice session.