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Modest mentor in step with captain & coach
- Relieved and excited after comeback, Sachin plays down role of individuals

Chandigarh, Oct. 26: Trust the maestro to get the timing right.

Learning from last season, when he returned to big-time cricket despite not being fully fit, Sachin Tendulkar took the safer route after surgery on his troublesome left elbow five months ago. Yesterday, he made the Sri Lankans pay for being compelled to miss two Tests and 10 ODIs.

If the Super Series is included, then the count goes up by one and three, respectively.

“It was tough being away from the game for so long... I felt it more in the mind... Because it was much harder mentally, my comeback has given me a sense of excitement,” Sachin told The Telegraph shortly after Team India checked in at the Taj Chandigarh this evening.

He fell seven short of what would have been his 39th ODI hundred, but insisted he wasn’t disappointed: “I’ve consistently maintained that cricket is a team sport and individuals only play a part. The team’s performance matters and I’m happy we won (by 152 runs). There’s no personal disappointment.”

How did he feel after the 96-ball innings'

“Quite okay... I did begin to cramp towards the end, but that was because I hadn’t played such a long innings for months. In fact, my previous India appearance was at the Kotla against Pakistan (April 17) and, so...” Sachin replied.

He added: “As for precautions, I’m being guided by our physio (John Gloster)... Then, both of us are in touch with Dr Andrew Wallace, who performed the surgery in London. Let’s say the monitoring is close and I’m comfortable both physically and in the mind.”

Despite the thousands of runs and nearly 16 years of international experience ' nobody anywhere, by the way, is more senior ' was he still anxious on taking guard'

“No... You’ve spoken of my experience... Well, it makes a difference... If I could, I would have continued to bat... But, then, I nicked one (off Fervez Maharoof) at the wrong time... Generally, the state of mind gets reflected in one’s batting... I was excited... I was relieved...” Sachin answered.

He contributed off the field as well ' but, typically, declined to talk about a suggestion (Irfan Pathan’s promotion to No.3) that made a huge impact.

“Rahul (Dravid) has spoken about it... He didn’t have to, but he did... However, I’m not going to take any credit for that move... Players do make suggestions and it’s up to the captain and coach (Greg Chappell, in this case) to decide what’s best,” Sachin said.

Was anything else up his sleeve'

Sachin laughed: “Surely, you don’t expect me to reveal anything... Won’t be under wraps if the Sri Lankans get to know!”

Chappell wants him to play the role of mentor, as well, but Sachin has actually been doing so for years. As he put it: “Right through my career, I’ve shared my experience with others in the dressing room. It’s up to teammates to absorb whatever they wish to...”

The more that’s taken in, the better.

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