Sachin Tendulkar’s search for his elusive 100th international century fittingly takes him to the Sydney Cricket Ground for Tuesday’s second Test against Australia, an arena celebrating its own Test ton.
The “Little Master” came close to achieving the unique feat with his fluent 73 in the first innings of last week’s Melbourne Test, where India succumbed to a 122-run defeat.
But the SCG, hosting its 100th Test, is one of 38-year-old Tendulkar’s happy hunting grounds. He has scored three of his 51 Test hundreds there in seven innings and averages an incredible 221.33 at the ground.
Tendulkar has been stranded on 99 Test and one-day international centuries since scoring 111 against South Africa in the World Cup in March, but the odds are stacked in his favour in Sydney this week.
“You really think cosmos, the Almighty and the Hindu gods were going to allow him to score it (100th ton) anywhere but the SCG?” SCG Trust chairman Rodney Cavalier said in half-jest. “These things are preordained.”
Tendulkar’s returns at the SCG make for a compelling argument: 148 not out (1992), 241 not out (2004) and 154 not out (2008).
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly said that based on Tendulkar’s batting form in Melbourne he is “guaranteed” to get his missing century in Australia.
“He looked very solid at the MCG on a pitch which had a fair bit of help for the quicks. His feet have moved superbly, which is an indication that his mind is thinking the right way,” Ganguly said.
“I can guarantee you that if he keeps batting like this he will make a major impact on the remaining three Tests and probably get past that magic landmark in this country.”
V.V.S. Laxman, one of India’s batting failures in Melbourne, is looking forward with relish to playing at the SCG, which statistically is his most productive scoring venue outside of India.
In five Test innings at the ground he has scored three hundreds and averages 96.20, a far cry from his desultory two and one last week at the MCG.
But for all of the runs from Tendulkar and Laxman, India have only won one of nine previous Tests at the ground and they cannot afford to fall 2-0 behind in the four-Test series.
Australia’s pace trio, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus, took 19 of the 20 Indian wickets in Melbourne and helped rout the tourists for 169 in the second innings to bring off an emphatic win inside four days.
Ricky Ponting, who was the best performing Australian batsman with 62 and 60 in Melbourne, has scored the most Test runs at the SCG with 1,346 at 64.10, including five centuries.
England scored three centuries in their innings thrashing of Australia at the SCG a year ago and while spinners had a minimal effect on that outcome, the signs are that there will be more spin this week.
“Just from walking across the ground it looks a lot less green than it has been the last few years,” senior Australian batsman Mike Hussey said Sunday.
“The last few years have been really seamer-friendly and there’s been overhead conditions to help that as well, but it (now) looks definitely a lighter colour and generally it has slowed down a little bit and helped the spinners as the game’s gone on,” he said.
Australia – Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin, Ed Cowan, Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Hussey, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, James Pattinson, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle, David Warner.
India: Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni (capt), Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha.