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Sachin has ‘record’ 55-minute net stint
- Ponting expects Australia to cash in on extra pace and bounce

Melbourne: Sachin Tendulkar is accustomed to setting records. On Tuesday afternoon, though, he added an unusual one: Fifty-five minutes at the MCG nets. As with most of his other records, the latest won’t be easy to beat.

“Quite simply, I just wanted a long hit... In fact, once done, I felt good,” Sachin told The Telegraph on returning to the team hotel. He confirmed never having batted so long during any workout overseas — that too when batting was optional.

Of course, Sachin didn’t say so himself, but it’s a pointer to how determined he is on making an impact in the two Tests that remain. After all, with scores of 0, 1 and 37 there’s much that the Little Maestro has to set right. There’s that bit about answering the many questions as well.

Indeed, now that his family — wife Anjali and the kids (Sara, Arjun) — is with him, Sachin is palpably relaxed. That’s great for Team India and, well, Steve Waugh and Co. better watch out. In any case, after a decade, the Australians are trailing (0-1) in a home series.

The third Test gets underway on Friday.

While the Indians arrived on Monday, the Australians landed in batches on Tuesday. According to captain-designate Ricky Ponting, the team is aware of the “challenge” that lies ahead and will be looking for the “extra pace and bounce (at the MCG)” to regain ground lost at the Adelaide Oval.

In much the same breath, he dwelt on Brett Lee’s recall and indicated the speed merchant had only one item on his agenda: Targeting the Indians. Whatever, Sourav Ganguly’s team shouldn’t be caught napping as Lee figured in their plans for the MCG even before Trevor Hohns and his colleagues picked him for the first time in over two months.

If Ponting was trying to ‘score’ a point or two, V. V. S.Laxman neutralised that during a brief interaction with the Media. “We’ve been focussing on our game plan and are going to back our strengths,” he responded to a query on whether Lee’s recall would ‘affect’ the Indians’ approach.

Expectedly, there was a question about his rich partnerships with vice-captain Rahul Dravid and Laxman was candid: “One learns from somebody who is so intense and is always at peak concentration... I admire his consistency...”

Nets was optional, but Dravid and Laxman still chose to have a reasonable hit. As the latter pointed out, “we felt it necessary as both of us didn’t play in Hobart (versus Australia A)...”

Meanwhile, curator Tony Ware informed that the wicket will be “quicker than Adelaide,” but added “nobody has anything to fear.” Incidentally, the Test will be hosted by a “fresh surface.” In other words, it hasn’t been used this season.

The MCG, by the way, is getting a new look. Surprisingly, however, even the charming Members Stand is being pulled down to allow a contemporary ambience and increased seats. It’s debatable whether the aficionado would approve, even if the capacity crosses the 100,000-mark.

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