The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sachin game for Pak

Hyderabad, Feb. 16: Despite reports suggesting otherwise, top gun Sachin Tendulkar is ready to fire in Pakistan on a tour slated to begin early next month. It will be India’s first full-fledged one there in almost 15 years.

“I’m aware of speculation over my availability, but it has been without basis. Now that you’ve specifically asked me, I’m available,” Sachin told The Telegraph this evening.

Speaking on the lawns of the Taj Krishna, after wishing newly-weds V.V.S. Laxman and Sailaja, he added: “I’d been quiet thus far, as I didn’t think a clarification was necessary. After all, I didn’t tell anybody in the media that I won’t be going.”

According to Sachin, the contest should be “good”. However, after breaking free from a horde of autograph-seekers, he pointed out: “Cricket-wise, though, I don’t think it’s really going to be very different from other commitments.”

Incidentally, the last trip featuring Tests and ODIs (in late 1989) had been Sachin’s first with Team India.

Sachin, of course, was the cynosure at the star-spangled reception till Andhra Pradesh chief minister . Chandrababu Naidu turned up (with his wife). Once he did, Naidu was mobbed for autographs and some of the invitees insisted on getting their children photographed with him.

That put security in a fix, but Naidu eventually listened to an officer who was requesting him to move with pleas of “Sir, this way, Sir…. It’s largely because of the chief minister that the security was all encompassing. Even gifts were screened.

Asked whether he still had reservations about the tour, given the possibility of a clash with the general elections, Naidu responded: “I understand there won’t be any conflict of dates and, so, the Centre’s green signal is fine with me. I hope our team wins.”

While Sachin confirmed his availability, Ajit Agarkar indicated he will be fit. “A scan at the weekend hasn’t shown a fracture in the left shin bone. Therefore, I should be hundred per cent okay,” he said.

Apart from current teammates, Laxman (who insisted he wasn’t worried about the security in Pakistan) invited childhood favourite Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja. The former remains banned for life, while Jadeja has come out of a five-year exile via Delhi High Court.

Sourav Ganguly was among the first to wish Laxman and the shy Sailaja. The captain had a reason: rushing back to Calcutta by the last flight after having taken an afternoon one to a city which looks prettier by the day.

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