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Sachin Tendulkar has been training independently at Lord's. His highest score there is 37.
Sachin Tendulkar has been training independently at Lord's. His highest score there is 37.

Sachin Tendulkar is preparing to lord over England

The Little Master's record at Lord's is surprisingly poor and he has been training hard to end his run of low scores.

Cricketers are well known as being creatures of habit and, despite his exalted status in the game, Sachin Tendulkar is no different.

When he sets down his bags in the away team dressing room at Lord's ahead of tomorrow's first Test against England, the India batsman will find his whites already laid out for him on his lucky seat.

This will be his fifth Test at cricket's most famous ground, and the dressing room staff know exactly where he has to sit to satisfy superstition. Tendulkar shares the same lucky chair as Glenn McGrath, the former Australia fast-bowler.

McGrath had to have the same spot every time he played at the north London ground after he took eight for 38 in his first Ashes Test here.

It treated him well. The signwriters painted "McGrath" on the honours board three times in the three Tests he played here. The name "Tendulkar", by contrast, remains conspicuous by its absence. Quite why he feels so attached to his perch is not altogether clear.

When Graeme Swann, the England off-spinner, was asked yesterday if he had a special plan to stop Tendulkar reaching his hundredth international hundred here this week, he answered succinctly: "Yep - get him out." Perhaps the answer might be even simpler still: just let him find his way to his favourite seat and England will have nothing to worry about.

Tendulkar, for his part, has been doing everything he can to rectify the anomaly of his poor record at Lord's.

Much was made of the fact he could reach his century of centuries in his home city when India played Sri Lanka in Mumbai in the World Cup. When he then missed out, after being dismissed early in the final, the fairy tale looked to be over.

Now he has a second chance, and at a place that more or less amounts to being his second home, too.

Tendulkar owns a house near Regent's Park, just around the corner from the East Gate of Lord's. While his compatriots were breezing through their series in the West Indies, he spent the month honing his game independently at Lord's.

The Mumbai maestro has been having regular two-hour net sessions, with Alan Duncan, a staff coach at the MCC Academy, giving the throw downs and feeding the bowling machine. Duncan said he sometimes felt as though his arm was going to drop off, but the pleasure has been all his.

"It was like getting the chance to play three holes with Tiger Woods, or take a penalty against David Seaman," Duncan, 31, said. "He is so down-to-earth, never has a bad word to say about anyone and he just seems to love talking about cricket."

Duncan first came to Lord's from his home in Scotland as an aspiring professional on the MCC Young Cricketers programme in 1999.

He has been a full-time member of staff and coach since 2003. Assignments in those eight years have been many and varied.

He also worked on a regular basis with Owais Shah, the former England batsman, when he was based at Lord's with his former county Middlesex, but Duncan's latest job trumps all his previous ones.

"Occasionally he [Tendulkar] will ask me how it's looking, if he is shaping up all right," Duncan said. "I can't really say much to that, other than, 'It's better than last week' or 'getting there'.

"The way he talks about the game and his strategies are so simple. He doesn't worry about technique, his only concern is watching the ball.

"His eyesight must be amazing, because he was telling me which side the shine was on, whether the ball was coming out as an off-cutter or whatever. And I was throwing it at him from 16 yards away."

pradley@thenational.ae


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