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Kiwis would find high-flying India hard to stop in Test opener

cricket Updated: Nov 03, 2010 13:05 IST
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Fresh from their 2-0 triumph over Australia, a full-strength India go into a three-Test rubber against New Zealand in Ahmedabad on Thursday with the focus on Sachin Tendulkar who just needs one more century to record an amazing feat of 50 Test tons.

The hosts, the world's number one ranked team, are on a phenomenal run in Test cricket, especially at home, and have lost only to South Africa (twice) since the beginning of 2008 on home soil.

India go into what is expected to be a lop-sided contest, with their tails up following the clean sweep against former world toppers Australia last month and a hat-trick of Test wins under their belt beginning with the triumph against South Africa at the Eden Gardens in February.

India have, significantly, won five of their last six Test matches at home while the Daniel Vettori-led Kiwis have arrived here from a humiliating 4-0 ODI series loss to Bangladesh in the latter's territory.

It would, therefore, need a superhuman effort from New Zealand to halt the rampaging Indian batting line up, in which Sachin Tendulkar is also in prime form, from batting them out of the contest.

Tendulkar has been in red-hot form from the beginning of 2010 when India toured Bangladesh. His appetite for runs and centuries has only increased with advancing years.

The 37-year-old champion cricketer has accumulated a staggering 1270 runs from his last nine Tests (15 innings), embellished by six three-figure knocks that includes two double hundreds, for a Bradmanesque average of 97.69, a feat that fetched him this year's ICC Cricketer of the Year honour.

He also scored his maiden double ton at the Motera ground in Ahmedabad, in 1999 and against the same opposition. The Indians fans will be hoping that his 50th Test century comes at Sardar Patel stadium in Ahmedabad.

While Tendulkar is the biggest threat with his ability to adapt to any situation and any format of the game, his protege Virender Sehwag also stands tall with his capacity to take the rival attack by the scruff and demoralise the bowling.

The return of V V S Laxman, who missed the previous match that India played at Bangalore against Australia because of a back problem, has bolstered the already strong batting which has even made light of the indifferent form of another mainstay Rahul Dravid since the tour to Sri Lanka.

Also returning to the Indian ranks to add meat to the side are opener Gautam Gambhir and lanky pace bowler Ishant Sharma who also missed the match at Bangalore.

The return of Gambhir and Dravid would mean the confinement to the bench of reserve opener Murali Vijay and rookie middle order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara who made significant contributions in the team's seven-wicket victory against Australia at Bangalore.