The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sachin, Lara already ‘players of the meet’
- Batting greats ‘embarrassed’ by qualifiers’ hero-worship

Cape Town, Feb.8: Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara’s impact on edition No.8 of the World Cup will be known a few weeks from now but, if left to the Dutch, Namibians and the Canadians, they already are Players of the Tournament.

Actually, the hero-worshipping indulged in by most members of the three World Cup qualifiers, during the traditional pre-tournament photo shoot, this morning, probably embarrassed even Lara and Sachin somewhat.

In fact, as the shoot ended — aboard one of the SAS Outeniqua’s decks — there was a rush to be photographed with the greatest batsmen of the present era. Some Bangladesh players too made sure they didn’t miss out on an excellent opportunity. The famed Table Mountain, after all, was the enchanting backdrop.

The rush for Sachin and Lara wasn’t limited to the players: Many sailors and security personnel joined the queue, each one of them making it a point to convey either “all the best” or “do well”. Lara and Sachin responded by smiling.

As the West Indians vacated the deck quicker, it was left to Sachin to oblige longer. And, a surprise ‘fan’ was Muttiah Muralidharan.

“I hope you score five-six hundreds,” Murali remarked, requesting a teammate to do the needful with his camera. Grinning, Sachin reacted thus:

“Thanks, and I hope you won’t be turning the ball too much...”

India and Sri Lanka are in different pools and the earliest they can meet is in the Super Six stage. Clearly, Sachin is looking at India facing Lanka in phase-II of the World Cup.

[Lara, by the way, isn’t looking too far ahead. “The Super Six' That’s a long way down the line...” was his response when a well-wisher “hoped” he would bump into the maestro in what should be the tournament’s most explosive stage.]

Incidentally, as the teams were preparing to occupy their seating positions, Shane Warne sought out Sachin and the two chatted for a couple of minutes.

Apparently, Warne’s decision to quit limited overs cricket after the sport’s biggest show concludes, next month, dominated.

Meanwhile, the customary pre-World Cup briefing too was held this morning and the 14 captains were reminded of their on-field obligations. One understands there was a thorough “presentation” on dope-testing, which will be in vogue during the tournament.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, a representative of the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Unit was also present and the gentleman featured in an “awareness lecture”.

Basically, the captains were “cautioned” about possible forms of an ‘approach’ from bookies and their attention was drawn to the video footage shown to them at different times during the past year. The footage, one learns, has “exposed” the bookies’ modus operandi.

It was an unusual briefing. But, then, World Cup 2003 itself promises to be a departure from earlier editions.

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