Melbourne: India’s three ageing champions – Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman -- represent the biggest threat to Australia’s developing bowling attack, and, they are determined not to let a rushed preparation compromise their last attempt at beating Australia at home.
Tendulkar and six of his teammates landed in Melbourne last night to get an early start at plotting their nation’s first series win on Australian soil.
Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Wriddhiman Saha will spend the next several days in Melbourne before playing in the first of two tour matches against a Cricket Australia chairman’s XI in Canberra from December 15.
Dravid’s remarkable renaissance has produced five centuries in 2011. In the same period, Tendulkar has been chasing his 100th. Dravid looked shot when he left Australia after a torrid series four years ago but he is back, age 38, seeking the ultimate farewell.
Before leaving India, Dravid said he still regarded Ricky Ponting - who is fighting for his career as Dravid was on his previous visit - as a great player.
In the two decades since Tendulkar first displayed his serene genius in Australia, India has won just two Tests here - one in Adelaide eight years ago and one in Perth during the tempestuous tour of 2007-08.
The anticipation of Tendulkar’s century of centuries, nine months in the making, has become a mania in a country of more than 1 billion, which is eager for distractions from unsettled times.
“It has become an obsession,” said Harsha Bhogle, the Indian cricket commentator and writer whose voice will be heard on ABC Radio from Boxing Day.
Bhogle told The Age: “Actually, we were hoping he would play the one-dayers [at home against the West Indies], get a hundred, get it out of the way and we could go back to thinking about something else.”
“Tendulkar’s hundred will allow people to forget that inflation is at a record high, that there is a new corruption scandal every day,” Bhogle said.
Tendulkar was rested from the one-day series to prepare for his last tour of Australia, which he has excited with six of his 51 Test centuries. A seventh would carve for Tendulkar yet another special place in the history of Australia-India combat.
“I think he would love to get it anywhere but he would really love to get it in Australia on Boxing Day,” Bhogle said.