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We are here to win: Sachin

Ashish Magotra in Chennai | September 17, 2003 16:56 IST

Mumbai skipper Sachin Tendulkar today threw down the gauntlet to the Rest of India side that boasts a wealth of talent from captain Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid to young hopefuls like pace bowler Lakshmipathy Balaji.

The last time Mumbai played in the Irani Tophy, in the 2000-01 season, they lost to Rest of India. But this time Tendulkar's goals are very clear.

"We are here to win," said the master bastman at a press conference in Chennai. "We will fight all the way and we want to win."

The Mumbai side has a good mix of youth and experience with stalwarts like Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Sairaj Bahutule and Wasim Jaffer backed up by the youth brigade lead by Aavishkar Salvi, Bhavin Thakkar and Nishit Shetty.

"It will not be easy for the youngsters and they have a lot to learn from the experience," said Tendulkar.

Chandrakant Pandit, former India wicket-keeper and now Mumbai coach, picked out Thakkar, Shetty and Ramesh Powar as the men to watch out for in the Mumbai team. In the Rest of India side, he believes Balaji will be a threat.

The strengths and weaknesses of both sides are quite well known and it promises to be a difficult game. Both sides have players trying to make it to the Indian XI and that adds spice to the contest.

"There are vacant places in the Indian side due to the unavailability of injured players and everyone will be trying their best," Tendulkar said.

"Cricket is a thrilling game and that's the kind of action this tie promises. Each match is exciting in its own way. Playing for Mumbai -- I played my first first-class game for the team -- is always special."

Tendulkar himself is returning to competitive five-day cricket after a long time, but said he enjoyed the break thoroughly.

"The five-month break before playing competitive cricket was a great help," he said. "As international cricketers, we play a lot of cricket and there is always niggles that we carry. The break allowed us to get back to full fitness and analyze our game. So in that way it was very good."

Mumbai has won the Irani Trophy 15 times, the most by any side, with the exception of Rest of India. And from that stems the team's confidence.

"We are confident, not overconfident," said Tendulkar. "It is the start of a new season and the first step is always important."

Tendulkar, who last captained Mumbai in 1998 against Gujarat in a Ranji Trophy league match, had some words of advice for his younger teammates.

"All I can say to the young players is that don't be under pressure and concentrate on current goals. There is no use thinking about all the five days. It is the current moment that is important and counts."

The conditions in Chennai are hot and humid, very different from Bangalore, where the recently concluded Challenger series was played. So it will be a battle not only against the powerful Rest of India side, but also the tough conditions.

All-rounder Ajit Agarkar put it aptly when he said, "Welcome to the real India."

It rained in Chennai last night and this morning too. As a result, the wickets were still damp. The Mumbai cricketers were unable to bat in the nets as a consequence.

Mumbai has never lost a first-class match under Tendulkar's captaincy. In the 15 matches he has led the side, the team registered 13 outright victories and drew two games.

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