The visiting Pakistan cricketers were caught off guard on Sunday by the dramatic announcement of Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar to retire from One-day Internationals.
“We will miss Sachin; we have been looking forward to play against him in this series,” Pakistan Twenty20 captain Mohammed Hafeez told reporters here after a three-hour practice session ahead of their first T20 tie at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Tuesday.
The Pakistan team landed in this tech hub late on Saturday to play two T20s and three ODIs over the next two weeks five years after their last visit to India.
“As a nation and players, we feel sad that Sachin has retired from ODIs ahead of this series, as he had his debut in international cricket on Pakistan soil [in 1989]. The world will miss his artistry on the field as he has been a great entertainer of the game,” Hafeez reiterated.
Clarifying that absence of Sachin would not make much of a difference for the team, Hafeez said though India had other great players, Sachin was Sachin and in that sense, none could equal him in many respects.
“We admire the man for his sheer domineering character who rattled all types of bowlers around the world. We all can praise his efforts to excel in international cricket. There is no doubt that he is a genius. We wish him good luck for the future,” Hafeez said.
Echoing Hafeez, pacemen Sohail Tanvir said it was an honour and privilege to bowl against such a great batsman and a wonderful human being.
“I enjoyed bowling to him because the margin of error was so less that he could dispatch even good deliveries to the fence.
Words are not enough to describe his achievements for India. He deserves the highest respect from the cricketing world,” Sohail said.
Sohail also wished best of luck for Sachin and hoped he would hit many more centuries for India in Tests though he was out of form in the recent games against England in the home series.
Paying glowing tributes to Sachin, Pakistan speedster Umar Gul said it was a challenge to bowl against Sachin and a delight to pick his wicket every time as he had an excellent reading of the ball.
“India should be proud of having a great cricketer like Sachin, whose presence in the team over the last two decades had inspired a generation of players and contributed in nurturing young cricketers like Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina. I am sure many more like them have learnt a lot from him,” Umar Gul recalled.
Batsman Umar Amin, who has been in and out of team, admitted that he would have loved to play against Sachin in this series if he had not retired and continued to play in the shorter version of the game.
“I played against India in 2010 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, but unfortunately Sachin wasn’t there. I would like to say only one thing that if cricket is religion then Sachin is god,” Umar Amin asserted.
Meanwhile, having not played any international match since last October’s semi-final match against Sri Lanka in the ICC World Twenty20, the Pakistan side underwent an extensive practice session to get into the groove ahead of the Twenty20 series. The 15-member Pakistan squad including stars Shahid Afridi, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik and Saeed Ajmal slogged it out under the watchful eyes of their Australian coach Dav Whatmore.
The practice session began around 10.50am with the players doing warming up exercises.
Whatmore and his boys mainly devoted a fair part of their time on fielding practice. Almost all the players including Saeed, Afridi, Hafeez, Umar Gul, the Akmal brothers and Malik practiced outfield catching and ground fielding.
The team arrived here last night via Delhi for the first bilateral series between the two sides since 2007.