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Kochi — Tendulkar's happy hunting ground

By Stan Rayan

KOCHI, APRIL 2. There's something special about Kochi in April when it comes to Sachin Tendulkar.

Seven years ago, when the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here hosted its maiden One-day International, the Little Master disappointed with the bat. He scored eight against Australia on April 1, 1998. But he played havoc with the ball, taking five wickets as India pulled off a stunning victory over its strong rival.

On Saturday, Tendulkar disappointed with the willow. He made just four. But he worked up magic with the ball once again, taking his second five-wicket haul as India thrashed Pakistan in the Pepsi Cup opener here.

"Whenever I play for the country, whether I bat or bowl, I play to the best of my ability," said Tendulkar after his first five-wicket haul. The words still ring clearly in one's ears.

He holds the best bowling record (5-32 v Australia) at the Nehru Stadium. Four ODIs have been played in Kochi and Tendulkar is the only bowler to take a five-wicket haul here. Not once but twice.

He mixed up his deliveries nicely, leg breaks, slower ones and the occasional fast ball like the one which surprised the Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq.

`Just wanted to stick till the end': Virender Sehwag, who virtually idolises Tendulkar, was a very responsible man today. "When Sachin got out, I decided I have to bat till the end," said Sehwag. "The heat was a problem so I just wanted to bat and rotate the strike," he said about his big stand with Rahul Dravid. "I'm batting well in the series, I hope it continues," said man-of-the-match Sehwag with his customary simplicity.

Costly misses: Dropping Virender twice (on 0 and 8) proved costly for Pakistan. "Had we held on to them, India would not have reached 281," said Inzamam.

"The wicket was a good batting track and India's total was a reachable target. The conditions were tough but as players we have to cope up with it," said the Pakistan captain.

But Sourav Ganguly felt the Indian total was a good one. "281 on any pitch is a defendable total. And under this heat, I knew it would be tough to chase. Also, the wicket was slowing down a bit," he said.

`I won't improve sitting at home': Today's victory has taken a lot of pressure off Ganguly. "It certainly does," he said.

At the post-match media meet, as expected, questions were raised about his form and whether he needed a break.

"I think I need to play more matches to regain my touch. I don't think by sitting at home things will improve," said Ganguly.

"I'm disappointed because it's now five or six (poor) innings but I think it will turn," he said.

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