Sachin Tendulkar eyes 100th century in 2000th Test
London: Sachin Tendulkar at the peak of his considerable powers can mark the 2,000th Test at Lord`s starting on Thursday with an unprecedented 100th international century at the headquarters of world cricket when India face England.
The only other comparable landmark is not promising.
Australia`s Don Bradman, who endured the same pressures and publicity which accompany Tendulkar, needed just four runs to finish with a Test average of 100 at the Oval in 1948.
Bradman was bowled without scoring in Australia`s only innings, the most famous duck in Test cricket, to finish with an average of 99.94, still 40 runs better than anybody before or since.
In addition, Tendulkar`s record at Lord`s is abject with a highest score of only 37 in seven innings. It compares to an overall Test record of 14,692 runs at an average of 56.94 with 51 centuries in Tests and 48 in one-day internationals.
Mumbai, Tendulkar`s home town, seemed the perfect setting for Tendulkar to reach a hundred hundreds in the World Cup final against Sri Lanka on April 2 this year. Instead he was out for 18, a failure soon overlooked after India`s dramatic victory.
The game is bigger than any individual and Tendulkar, revered by team mates and opponents alike, remains the ultimate team man.
At the age of 38, he is batting better than ever in a career stretching back to 1989 scoring 1,562 runs at an average of 78 last year. He now combines the dazzling strokeplay of his youth with the technical solidity of his middle years and with a tour of Australia in the offing later in the year the 100th century is only a matter of time if he does fall short at Lord`s.
"He`s phenomenal to still be going now and on the verge of his 100th hundred in international games," England off-spinner Graeme Swann said on Tuesday.
"But hopefully he`ll have to wait six or seven months for that, because we don`t want him to get one in England."
A number of other statistics make Thursday`s Test already memorable before a ball has been bowled.
The first in a four-Test series is the 2,000th Test match in history and the 100th between England and India. If England win the series by a margin of at least two matches, they will overtake India as the world`s top-ranked side.
On the surface the match is a straight battle between England`s four-man attack and the talented and prolific Indian batsmen.
The rain which afflicted the recent series against Sri Lanka has not subsequently relented and the cool, damp conditions will suit England`s leading strike bowler James Anderson.
Swann acknowledged that the pace bowlers are likely to dominate this week.
"The trick is to put enough runs on the board as a team to then allow our bowlers to bowl them out twice," he said.
India`s batting has been weakened by the loss of opener Virender Sehwag to a shoulder injury for the first two Tests. They still have Gautam Gambhir at the top of the order and Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in the middle followed by Dhoni.
Wicketkeeper Dhoni has been an immensely impressive leader, taking India to the first Twenty20 World Cup, this year`s 50 overs World Cup and to the top of the world rankings.
He symbolises the brash, new face of Indian cricket as displayed to the world in the Mumbai triumph and the Indian Premier League with a host of commercial endorsements which have made him a wealthy young man.
"It`s not the rankings that are important to us. What is important is to play good cricket and enjoy the sport," Dhoni said during India`s sole warmup match last week.
"The rankings will take care of themselves. When you represent India and 1.2 billion have expectations from you, I think every series is important."