In Sachin Tendulkar, Railways face a 300-balls-per-hour freight train

The Railways Ranji team looks set to bear the brunt of Sachin Tendulkar's feverishly obsessive preparation for England. Ominous word has it that Mumbai Cricket Association's superstar inclusion for the Ranji game, faced almost 300 balls in an hour in the run-up.

Coach Sulakshan Kulkarni has been witness to the frenzied sight of five net bowlers lining up against the 39-year-old, bowling to him continuously for long stretches this past week. "He's been going up against five bowlers at a stretch for one hour. They've been long sessions and in 15 to 20 minutes, he's faced, like, 100 balls. That means in one hour around 300 balls without a break, for which you have to concentrate very hard. It's even more difficult without sight-screens," Kulkarni explains.

Tendulkar missed Thursday's morning session because of a stomach upset, but Kulkarni insisted that he will be part of the Mumbai side. The star's agitation at missing his shots has been like a desperate youngster's, the coach adds. All eyes will be on him after his patchy form and modest scores have left him hungrier for runs than ever. The whole debate of his 'age vs hunger' to play on, will be revived against this young Railways side this Friday.

The other player keen to excel will be Zaheer Khan. India wants him fitter and in form, after his last appearance in the T20 World Cup and a one-month break. India's ace spearhead will look to get his rhythm chugging against the Railways before he arrives for the first Test.

Sensing a chance

Meanwhile, youngsters Sharma and Rahane will like nothing better than to grab attention as all eyes are on this match thanks to Khan and Tendulkar.

It presents them with an opportunity to put up a good performance as that will brighten chances to push their names into the Test squad, to be announced on November 5.

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