The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 16 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Services have to deal with the Sachin factor

New Delhi: Located in the outskirts, the Palam cricket ground normally doesn’t attract more than 100-odd spectators on an average whenever Services play a Ranji Trophy match.

But it was an altogether different story on Tuesday morning, when Sachin Tendulkar’s Mumbai were having their nets, on the eve of their semi-final clash against the hosts.

As the luxury coach carrying the Mumbai squad drove into the Air Force Station sports complex at 10 in the morning, securitymen got into the action trying their best to control the autograph-hunters, as well as the camerapersons.

With a century under his belt in the previous match, Tendulkar joined his teammates for a warm-up drill before padding up for the customary net session. He didn’t look too happy when the third delivery he faced from left-arm spinner Vishal Dhabolkar suddenly kept low and hit him on his left toe.

Tendulkar had a look at the strip for a few seconds and then talked to Dhabolkar and the other left-arm spinner, Ankeet Chavan, before abandoning his plan for an elaborate net session.

Instead, he asked team trainer Amogh Pandit to provide him with throw-downs for the next half an hour or so.

Later, Tendulkar also had a look at the pitch and had a chat with BCCI chief curator Daljit Singh and Samandar Singh Chauhan.

Though there were some grass visible on the wicket, the Mumbai team did not look too perturbed by the prospect of facing Services pace bowlers. In fact, captain Ajit Agarkar made it clear that his team would start “favourites” in the match.

“I won’t say we are the overwhelming favourites, but we are surely the favourites. I am not trying to sound arrogant, but that we are 39-time champions, proves a point.

“When you have a player of Sachin’s calibre, it makes a lot of difference,” Agarkar said.

On paper, Services are no match for Mumbai. Services will also miss the services of their regular captain Shoumik Chatterjee, who suffered an injury in the quarter final against Uttar Pradesh.