Sydney, Jan 2 (IANS) Both India and Australia will enter the history books when they play the 100th Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here Tuesday but the spotlight will still be on Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th international century as the two meet for the second Test in their four-match series.
History is on India’s side, having done generally well at the SCG, and they have their best chance of levelling the four-match series here by avenging the Boxing Day Test defeat.
The two teams have bitter memories of their last encounter at the SCG in 2008 that Australia won by 122 runs. Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh was slapped with a three-match ban for racially abusing Andrew Symonds while the Indian team threatened to call off the series after several decisions went against them.
Tendulkar backed Harbhajan and played a crucial role in getting reduced the three-match ban and racism charge to just insult not amounting to racism — to which the fiesty spinner pleaded guilty and was fined 50 per cent of his match fees.
Recalling the 2008 incident, the Australia media has stepped up the pressure on Tendulkar, saying he was wrong to back Harbhajan.
But Tendulkar in SCG nets Monday was a study in how hard he has practised to earn excellence. He enjoys an enviable record at the SCG scoring at an average of 221. His highest score at the SCG is 241 not out and he has reached three figures twice and never been dismissed after passing 45.
The Australians must have chalked out their plans to deny the batting great the much-awaited milestone but senior batsman Mike Hussey predicted that it will be tough to stop the master blaster from getting his 100th international century.
Australian captain Michael Clarke, who had announced an unchanged team for the second Test, was modest in admitting that Tendulkar’s 100th international century will be a great advertisement for the oldest format of the game.
Clarke, speaking at the pre-match conference ahead of the second Test, said the build-up to the match has been ‘outstanding’ and Tendulkar deserves all the attention for getting so close to the milestone.
‘I think it is great for cricket. He is a legend of this game, as good as I have seen in my time. The build up has been outstanding for the fans who have got another reason to come and watch Test cricket,’ Clarke said.
Clarke will be leading Australia for the first time on this ground which will be hosting its 100th Test. The 30-year-old described the opportunity as a great honour.
Unlike Clarke, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni chose to reveal his team only on Tuesday morning. Having suffered the fifth consecutive Test loss overseas, Dhoni admitted that five straight losses overseas have hit the ‘belief of the team’ but believes that his boys are capable of bouncing back in the Sydney Test against Australia beginning Tuesday.
Dhoni felt it would be ‘premature’ to write India off after the 122-run loss in Boxing Day Test at Melbourne.
‘That is what you think (on writing India off in the series),’ Dhoni said.
‘If you see the kind of players we have got, that will be a very premature statement to make. What we have seen is, we have always bounced back and the Australian team will have to keep the pressure on the batting line-up and the bowlers. It is just that we have not performed in the first Test, and we will look to improve in the second,’ he said.