Will the backbone of the Indian batting line-up be in the shape to withstand the rough and tumble of an African safari after skipping the three-match series of one-dayers against the West Indies in Toronto? According to a TV journalist based in Singapore, the venue of the just-concluded tri-nation series, the answer could well be an emphatic no. Says he: “Sachin is unlikely to be fully fit by September 25, the day the four-nation LG Cup gets under way in Nairobi, Kenya. So indications are that he'll refrain from risking his back until New Zealand's October-November tour of India.”
So the earliest that Indian cricket fans can hope to see their favourite cricketer back in the thick of the action is during the first Test against New Zealand beginning on October 10. Sources close to the master batsman reveal that the Mumbai-based sports medicine expert, Dr Anant Joshi, will accompany the Indian captain to Australia later this month to seek expert medical advice. Dr Joshi has been asked to identify the Australian doctors that Tendulkar needs to see. During the trip, the Indian captain is expected to visit the Australian Institute of Sports, Canberra.
But even if Tendulkar is back from Australia in time for the Kenya quadrangular, he might opt to sit out just a little while longer. The reinstated Indian captain is believed to be keen to work his way back to 100 per cent fitness ahead of the home series against New Zealand in October. The advantage with a home series-even though it's against the resurgent Kiwis-is that Sachin will be playing in conditions he is totally familiar with, a fact that might also help him improve his record as captain of India. Since his return as skipper, India has played two one-day tournaments. It hasn't won either.
“Occasional breaks from the game can do a cricketer no harm,” feels Dr Arunachalam Kumar, professor of anatomy, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore. So, if Sachin extends his recovery period by a couple of weeks, it can only stand him in good stead. Dr S.P. Mandal, senior orthopaedic surgeon, Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, is confident that Sachin's spinal condition isn't a career-threatening problem. “All he needs to do is plan his cricket outings judiciously. And, as far as possible, he should avoid sudden changes of climate when he's travelling,” says Dr Mandal.