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It apos;s Time For Team India To Focus On The Test

Time to focus on the Test: Despite the Sachin fanfare, Team India must avoid getting distracted
By [/home/search.html?s=&authornamef=Shreyas+Sharma Shreyas Sharma]
Published: 01:20 BST, 14 November 2013 | Updated: 01:20 BST, 14 November 2013
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Like in Kolkata, the build-up to the second Test starting here on Thursday has been all about one man.

It may be a hastily convened valedictory series for Sachin Tendulkar, but there are still 15 sessions of cricket to be played at the Wankhede Stadium, and it is up to the 22 players to make sure the focus is on the job at hand, despite the distractions.

India mauled the Windies at the Eden Gardens by an innings and, according to virtually every expert including Caribbean legend Brian Lara, it will be a surprise if the Test lasts the distance.
Hero: A police officer stands on a road by a banner displayed to honor cricketer Sachin Tendulkar

Legend: Sachin Tendulkar poses for a group photo with ground staff during a practice session in Mumbai

Their batting against Mohammad Shami's reverse swing was woeful, with only Shane Shillingford making an impact on the Indian batsmen.

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, though, rushed to the defence of his opponents at the pre-match press conference.

"It's not fair to judge them on the basis of one match. They have some really good players and some quality fast bowlers," Dhoni said.
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"The surface for the game looks totally different to the one in Kolkata. The red soil traditionally affords more bounce and carry. There is quite a bit of grass which is expected to be shaved off before the start.

"It's still a little damp.

One will only get a feel before the match tomorrow," was Dhoni's assessment of the pitch.

His opposite number, Darren Sammy, said: "It looks like a good cricket pitch and we all know Mumbai is good for the first three or three-and-a-half days.
So hopefully, we could play five full days of cricket."
MCA president Sharad Pawar with Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray during the naming of Wankhede Stadium's press box as Balasaheb Thackeray Press Box on Wednesday

Dhoni is expecting a 'great' match ahead, largely due to the Tendulkar factor.

"It will be one of the greatest matches in cricketing history but as it is his last game, we need to keep it as normal as possible. There are plenty of things going around. We have done our best to keep focus at the right place," the skipper said.

"I would like him (Tendulkar) to enjoy his last Test. As much as you want him to score a hundred, a double hundred or a triple hundred, you can't guarantee performance. I would like him to enjoy to the fullest and may be get a few wickets for us. That will be fun as one expects some turn and bounce from the wicket."

Dhoni said he hadn't seen any change in Tendulkar's body language.

"As far as doing anything special is concerned, we would like to keep things simple. As it is, everyone is trying to do something special. We do have a few things on our mind. But you guys need to wait and concentrate on the match," he quipped.

Sachin-More bond has strengthened
Kiran More was the wicketkeeper on the 1989 tour to Pakistan, and had a 16-year-old boy with a sleepwalking problem as his roommate.

Since then, the 49-Test veteran's friendship with Sachin Tendulkar has solidified, and even survived the tough period when the former was chairman of selectors and was faced with the unpleasant task of deciding whether to axe his friend or keep him in the team, since the maestro was struggling with a tennis elbow and underperforming.

"He had slumped because of the injury. We, as selectors, were trying to look at the long term, but you always pick the squad keeping in mind whether the team you pick can win consistently or not. We all felt he needed to be more aggressive, and we were worried. But we took our time and gave him the long rope. In the end, we sat down with Ajit [Sachin's brother], Anjali [his wife], [then-India coach] Greg Chappell and Sachin himself and discussed his fitness. But he repaid our faith when he came back to his brilliant best," More told Mail Today.

Ahead of the big one: Sachin Tendulkar with BCCI President N Srinivasan during a practice session

Asked to reflect on the 1989 tour to Pakistan and Tendulkar's inclusion in the squad, More said: "None of us dreamt that a child of 16 will come and play Test cricket with us. We were all shocked. But whenever a young kid comes into the team, a ll the seniors try to help him and take care of him. Whether we were going out for food or for parties, we would take him along. In the nets also, we used to work with him.

"What was unbelievable was the kind of maturity he was showing at that age."

More and Tendulkar share a unique connection - the great man has used helmets manufactured in More's factory for almost his entire cricketing career.

More recalls: "Whenever he got hit, we were scared as it was our product after all.

We felt that our factory would be shut if something happens to him. But, he gave strength to the helmet."
High-rise: Virat Kohli during a practice session - he is popular on the billboards around Wankhede

Kohli over maestro on billboards
You may call it another example of the passing of the torch, but it's striking that the hoardings featuring Sachin Tendulkar's 51 Test centuries dotted around the high perimeter scaffolding of the Wankhede Stadium are overshadowed by the intermittent advertising boards featuring Virat Kohli.

But at ground level, the focus was still firmly on the veteran maestro as he took the field for what was, perhaps, his final practice session.

As soon as the Indian team arrived for practice at 9:55am, around 20 groundstaff in khaki uniforms lined up to present Sachin a bouquet, which he accepted with usual grace.
He was also felicitated by the journalists from all over the country who have gathered to cover his 200th and final Test.

Sachin was reportedly unhappy with the pomp and show put up by Cricket Association of Bengal for the previous Test in Kolkata.

And whether he has exerted his considerable influence on the Mumbai Cricket Association or the body has decided to be considerate on its own, it certainly seems to be giving primacy to the Test.

However, Sachin's focus was disturbed by a special visitor.
Board of Control for Cricket in India president N. Srinivasan walked in with a shaved head, and secretary Sanjay Patel and other BCCI and MCA officials in tow.

At first, his attention was focused on the President's Box, and the MCA officials were running about to follow his instructions.

Amid the din of last-minute hoarding-hoisting and metal striking metal ricocheting as temporary stalls were put up behind the stands, Srinivasan walked up to Sachin and spoke to him for a few minutes.

In all the hype over Sachin, one man whose homecoming has been largely forgotten is Rohit Sharma, currently in the midst of an unprecedented purple patch and the 50-odd fans who had gathered to watch the practice session showered the local boy with affection.

Rohit returned the favour as, in the company of skipper M.S.

Dhoni, he patiently signed autographs and shook hands with the fans.