The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sachin on the bench
- Master blaster travels for a cause, without bat

Melbourne, Jan. 8: Even as Ricky Ponting has acknowledged 'not in my wildest dreams did I believe I would be given the honour of leading a world XI', Sachin Tendulkar has confirmed he can't feature in the Asia XI versus ICC XI tsunami fund-raising ODI at the MCG on Monday.

'I was available for selection in the XIV only, not the XI.... Whatever the restraints placed on me, though, I felt I must support a cause which needs unconditional backing,' Sachin told The Telegraph during a transit halt at Sydney airport this morning.

At best, then, he can take the field as a substitute. In fact, he has neither brought a bat nor pads.

Of course, that Sachin remains cricket's hottest name was evident not just at the international and domestic terminals in Sydney, but the airport here. Much as he tried to stay inconspicuous, the janata mobbed him for autographs and photographs courtesy camera phones.

Unusually, Sachin and four other Team India members ' vice-captain Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan ' stood in the general queue to clear customs (there's no separate immigration area) till somebody realised chaos would become the flavour of the morning.

So, after 10 minutes or thereabouts, the quintet was advised to head towards the desk for diplomatic passport holders. Incidentally, Sachin and the rest reached Melbourne after 17 hours of travelling from last evening.

Sourav Ganguly, who is leading Asia, will land here only early tomorrow morning as he opted to fly Calcutta-Singapore-Melbourne instead of the route preferred by the Sachins.

By the way, neither Sachin nor the Dravids knew the fund-raiser had been accorded official status till after they settled down in the upper deck business class of the 747 Qantas service from Mumbai.

[Fund-raiser No.2, likely to be hosted by Calcutta on February 16, is also going to be a ODI.]

Sachin, it may be recalled, has been advised 'complete rest' till the end of January as he is again experiencing pain in the left elbow. Diagnosed (in late August) as having a tennis elbow, he rested for two months, but with India trailing in the Tests against Australia, returned without being a hundred per cent fit.

'Basically, I can't even touch a bat and, so, there's no question of playing (on Monday) just because of the official status.... Today, frankly, I can't say when exactly I'll resume nets,' Sachin pointed out.

That he has, at least, made it here has been well received by the cricket fraternity and the sports-obsessed Melbournites. 'After all, it's a fantastic gesture,' remarked Asia manager Syed Ashraful Huq, who is also the Asian Cricket Council chief executive.

A decision on workouts ' ('I'm going to take one thing at a time') will be taken once Sachin begins a two-week rehab programme at the end of this month. Asked whether he intended consulting a specialist in Australia, Sachin replied 'no'.

Looking to Monday's ODI, he felt the fund-raiser would have seen a 'high degree' of competition even if the ICC hadn't given it official status:

'I don't think anybody would have treated it as a fun game.... Now, in any case, the competition is going to be fierce.'

The fund-raiser is already a sell-out and, given the interest across the world, it's possible that the TV viewership (over 122 countries) could become the highest-ever for any cricket match.

Believe it or not, according to Huq, it will be shown across the US as well ' live in some regions, deferred telecasts elsewhere.

It's the tsinamu push for cricket there.

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