Nagpur Test: India banks on Sachin

India are banking on their fit-again talisman Sachin Tendulkar to boost their struggling batting line-up in a third cricket Test beginning on Tuesday.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:09 IST
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India are banking on their fit-again talisman Sachin Tendulkar to boost their struggling batting line-up and overwhelm Australia in a must-win third cricket Test beginning on Tuesday. Tendulkar's mere presence in the playing eleven should give the hosts, whose batting is yet to click barring Virender Sehwag's knock of 155 in the drawn second Test at Chennai, a lot to cheer about. With Australia having taken a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series, another win by the visitors will help them clinch their first ever series victory on Indian soil in 35 years, which makes it imperative for India to deliver the goods before it is too late. Terrific record The hosts are expecting the master batsman, who enjoys a terrific record here at Vidarbha Cricket Association ground, to inspire them to a win and deny a determined Australia. Tendulkar has scores of 176, 179 and an unbeaten 201 in three of the four Tests he has played here. But Tendulkar, 30 short of completing 9500 Test runs, said he was not thinking about his past records on this ground. "It's all gone in history books. I will start from zero," said the 31-year-old adding he was looking forward to resume action after a more than two-month injury lay-off. Opening combination The return of Tendulkar would mean that Mohammad Kaif would have to be left out from the playing eleven. Captain Sourav Ganguly indicated that there could be a change in the opening combination as well, suggesting that Aakash Chopra was also in contention. "Both Yuvraj and Chopra are in fray, the choice will be made by the selectors," he said. Asked about the pitch, which was trimmed considerably overnight, he said he had not given any instruction to the curator ever since landing in the Orange City. "I gave some instruction only last week from Kolkata but I have not given any instruction after arriving here," he said. Big total But irrespective of how the pitch behaves, the Indian batsmen will have to ensure a big total. The middle order has failed to click so far, thanks to the indifferent form of VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and captain Sourav Ganguly, resulting in the hosts being unable to take full advantage of the situations set up by the efforts of spinners Anil Kumble (13 wickets at Chennai) and Harbhajan Singh (11 at Bangalore). India are also expecting that the toss of the coin would go in their favour and end Ganguly's woeful luck in home Tests (he lost his 11th toss at home in Chennai and second in as many Tests in this series). The tinge of grass on the wicket will no doubt enthuse the battery of Australian pace bowlers, particularly Glenn McGrath, who would be playing his 100th Test match. Making a mark McGrath would be keen to make a mark in this Test knowing fully well that he might not get another chance to be part of Test team to India. The pitch appears to be pace-friendly but India are most likely to persist with their double spin attack which has been getting the team regular breakthroughs. Injury to pace spearhead Irfan Pathan, ruled out of the Test due to a side strain, could see Ajit Agarkar, with his good record against Australia to back his claims against injury-prone left armer Ashish Nehra, sharing the new ball with Zaheer Khan. This move would also give a bit of variety to the Indian attack as well as enable both Harbhajan and Kumble to exploit the bowler's footmarks on both sides of the wicket at both ends with Agarkar and Zaheer bowling regularly from over the wicket. Kumble, who has drawn level with Kapil Dev by taking his 79th wicket in his 12th Test against Aussies at Chennai, and Harbhajan may have to wait till the third day to gain some assistance from the pitch here. Chennai repeat What the Indians would like to avoid is the repeat of the situation in Chennai when night watchman Jason Gillespie batted for close to two sessions on day four after joining his partner Damien Martyn the previous evening to defy the Indian attack. In hindsight that record fifth wicket stand of 139 between Gillespie, who made 24, and Martyn (104, his first century against India), cost India the golden chance to level the series as the duo not only played out time, but also set up a daunting fourth innings target of 229 runs for the hosts to chase. Rains finally had the final say in the tie. The Aussies, who are expected to retain the same eleven that did duty for them at Bangalore and Chennai, would also look to consolidate on the sort of blazing century stands provided by openers Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden in Chennai. Solid batting However, Hayden, who scored over 550 runs in the 2001 series in India, has failed so far to build on good starts while Langer too has looked vulnerable in the initial part of his innings against the swinging ball. Martyn has shown his ability to cope with the Indian spin aces along with Simon Katich and the twinkle-footed talented newcomer Michael Clarke. Gilchrist has played a few cameos and overall the Australian batting has looked more solid than on their previous tour. With Shane Warne having taken his first five-wicket in an innings haul against India at Chennai, the visitors are looking forward to clinching the series here itself. Riveting match Brett Lee is certain to cool his heels in the dressing room after comments from Ricky Ponting, who has joined his teammates but won't be playing in this Test, that the paceman would have to wait for his chance to come. Going by the past contests between the two teams, another riveting match is in store for the fans who are expected to throng the venue here in droves especially with the news of Tendulkar's availability which has boosted the ticket sales three-fold. (PTI)