| Sachin Tendulkar with Harbhajan Singh at a training session in Nagpur. (AFP)
Nagpur, Oct. 24: It's easy to understand why the nation thirsts for Sachin Tendulkar. Equally, it shouldn't be difficult appreciating why the present generation's Little Master finds himself under such pressure.
This afternoon, Sachin accepted he couldn't ever get away from it: 'My body has come to prepare that way... I'm going to be under pressure even if I've got hundreds in my last two games.'
Come Tuesday and Sachin will be making a Team India comeback, on a firm and surprisingly greenish VCA Stadium wicket, having missed the last three one-day tournaments and the first two Tests owing to a tennis elbow.
It's another matter (and story) that his return against Australia is posing a 'problem' for the think tank: Who to drop and, if Yuvraj Singh goes, then who is to open with Virender Sehwag'
Sachin's last appearance was in the August 1 Asia Cup final in Colombo. Since his debut in Karachi, almost 15 years ago, only once before -- all three matches on the 2001-02 tour of Sri Lanka -- has injury kept him away from Test cricket.
However, Sachin isn't one hundred per cent fit ' not that it was apparent during his 15 minutes batting at nets this morning. 'That (complete recovery) is going to take time... Having said that, intensity-wise, I've had tough practice sessions and the body has responded very well. I'm not in pain, but the left elbow gets stiff. The muscles, though, are getting stronger,' he told a news conference.
Sachin, of course, was quick to counter a suggestion that his strokeplay will be restricted. 'I intend playing my normal game and I'm not going to be affected'.'
And, when somebody asked whether he expected problems scripting a 'five-six hour innings', Sachin responded emphatically: 'I'll be happy to bat that long... After about 15 years, one must overcome problems or obstacles.'
He continued: 'The idea, at the end of the day, is to be happy... I'm delighted to be back, because it hasn't been easy sitting out. As in the past, I'm going to try my best... Mentally, I'm ready for the challenge.'
Actually, the over two-month lay-off also had moments of sheer torture, like when Sachin had to sit through four sessions of shock therapy in London.
Interacting separately with The Telegraph, he recounted: 'Each sitting was for 15 minutes and, believe me, nothing has been more painful... It was as if a nail was getting hammered into that elbow... Went on and on...'.
Sachin, incidentally, will be using a marginally lighter bat. 'The one I normally use weighs 1,280 grammes... Now, I'm going to use a shade lighter one... The change isn't that significant.'
Nagpur, by the way, has seen Sachin post three of his 33 centuries, including an unbeaten 201 versus Zimbabwe almost four years ago. But, as he explained, that's history: 'This time, I'll be starting from zero.'
Given that Sachin's return has sent ticket sales soaring, that should be in front of packed terraces.
Footnote: The Test here is going to be Glenn McGrath's 100th and the star Australian picked Sachin as one of the two most difficult to dismiss. The other, predictably, is Brian Lara. 'Sachin hasn't played a lot in recent times and, so, it's to be seen how he... But, yes, it's nice bowling against the best... Of late, Sachin has been happy just seeing me off and I take that as a compliment,' McGrath said.