Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ind vs Pak: Sachin Tendulkar, India squad practice at semifinal venue

MOHALI: India's World Cup squad was greeted by a crowd of about 150 fans as they arrived Sunday for their first training session at the PCA Stadium ahead of Wednesday's much-hyped semifinal against Pakistan.

The team was led off the bus by star batsman Sachin Tendulkar. Local hero Yuvraj Singh was the last to head into the stadium, but was the only player to stop to sign autographs for a few lucky youngsters who had been allowed inside the gates.

While the rest of his teammates began a football kickabout at the PCA Stadium, Tendulkar typically opted to practice a few of his famous strokes with a new bat before eventually joining in.

Tendulkar, who has never won the World Cup, has scored two hundreds at the tournament, putting him one away from 100 international tons.

Harbhajan Singh, who used to play on the same local Punjab team as Yuvraj, was absent for the first part of Sunday's session, but arrived later after visiting his home in nearby Jalandhar.

Virender Sehwag, still recovering from a knee problem, missed the football but joined batting and fielding drills.

As the sun set behind the PCA Stadium, the players ended the session with a game of volleyball.

Sudhir Gautam, a fabled fan who is often seen around the India squad, was the only person apart from security officers, officials and media allowed in to watch the session. Wearing a Tendulkar shirt and a replica of the World Cup trophy on his head, he waved a giant India flag and occasionally blew into a conch shell.

India play Pakistan in Wednesday's second World Cup semifinal, the first time the two teams have met in the knockout stage since 1996.

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