Sachin Tendulkar is ready for catch-ups, slip-ups and entertaining cricket in Sunday's all-star charity contest, but it is Australia's catastrophic bushfire crisis that is weighing most heavily on his mind.
Tendulkar, India's greatest ever cricketer, is the biggest name involved in the match at Melbourne's Junction Oval featuring teams captained by Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist.
Tendulkar is listed to coach the Ponting XI that features Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Brett Lee and Wasim Akram.
The once-in-a-generation superstar shunned the spotlight throughout his decorated career and that trend has largely continued since retiring in 2013.
But when Lee reached out to the reclusive legend, wanting to put him in touch with Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts regarding the fundraising fixture, the answer was a prompt and enthusiastic yes.
Tendulkar is looking forward to chewing the fat with Lee plus Ponting and seafarers.id Andrew Symonds, having struck up a rapport with the two batsmen when they were at Indian Premier League franchise Mumbai Indians.
But that is not why the 46-year-old, who fell in love with Australia while spending almost four months here as an 18-year-old on a Test tour, agreed to make the trip.
"We must enjoy each other's company and, above all, not forget the cause. That's the prime reason I am here," Tendulkar told reporters at the SCG.
"This is an alarming situation. It's catastrophic, that's an understatement."
Australia's unprecedented bushfire season has claimed the lives of 33 people and an estimated one billion native animals, also destroying thousands of homes and decimating habitats and communities.
"You see the number of lives it has affected and not just humans, but also the wildlife. Which sometimes people don't talk about and I think that is equally important," Tendulkar said.
"People have suffered, have lost virtually everything."
Tendulkar suggested a shoulder injury prevented him from playing on Sunday, although he teasingly noted he "might just pick up a bat".
"I'm so happy that I'm here, in whatever possible way, to support the cause and raise money. Australia has always been dear to me," he said.
Speaking alongside Tendulkar on Friday, compatriot Yuvraj Singh expressed sadness at the extent of death and destruction in recent months.
"It's sad times for humanity," Singh said.
"But there's a lot of humans and we're here to support each other. Hopefully from the game, we're able to generate as many funds a possible from around the world."
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