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All eyes on Sachin Tendulkar

Questions at the pre-match media conference focussed on how everyone would feel when Tendulkar adds 15 runs to his enviable collection, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.
By Atreyo Mukhopadhyay | Hindustan Times, Mohali
UPDATED ON OCT 17, 2008 12:17 AM IST

Sachin Tendulkar's world record in waiting, Anil Kumble’s sore shoulder, the rain that has caught the Land of the Turbanator by surprise in the last few days – there was no dearth of distractions a day before the crucial second Test of the India-Australia series.

Questions at the pre-match media conference focussed on how everyone would feel when Tendulkar adds 15 runs to his enviable collection to become the batsman with the most Test runs. With the teams forced to train indoors and nobody getting a chance to see what they did, there was speculation on whether India's Test captain bowled or not. And all this was done with an eye on the sky, which was clear after the early morning gloom.

The Test starting on Kumble's 38th birthday was pushed somewhat to the background even as everything discussed centered around it. This should be the continuation of some hard and intense cricket between two teams who have not been able to conceal completely an element of ill will whenever they have played each other after Eden Gardens 2001.

There have been conscious attempts from both sides to send out a message that all's well, but there have been too many incidents pointing to the contrary. The words exchanged between some players in the first Test being the latest example. Curiously, and Bangalore reinforces the point, this grudge or whatever you call it has also led to some engrossing cricket.

Tests between India and Australia have surpassed most other contests in terms of the fierceness of competition, quality of cricket and of course the drama they cause forcing frequent interventions from keepers of the law. Because of some outstanding performances on the field – collectively and individually – the cricket these duels produce has always stood out. The first Test was no different.

Heading into the second one, India will take confidence from the way the tail resisted in the first innings and the way the middle-order refused to disintegrate on a crumbling pitch in the second. That, and the respect their fast bowlers commanded, apart they should also approach the second Test with an amount of apprehension. Has the middle-order that formed the team's backbone become an area of concern? All four occupying these spots contributed in Bangalore, but what would have happened had the bowlers not made those first-innings runs?

Irrespective of whether he plays or not, Kumble would prefer viewing that Test as an occasion when the whole team came together to save a difficult game. He would also like to see at least two of the ageing guns put together substantial scores, like they did against the same attack about 10 months ago. Things have changed post Ajantha Mendis, however, and the resistance in the first Test was not a convincing way of saying that the batting malfunction in Sri Lanka was accidental or a one-off.

Australia's attempt to exploit this suffered a blow on Thursday when Stuart Clark was ruled out with an elbow injury. This means a maiden cap for Peter Siddle on a pitch that is known for assisting quicker bowlers. However, the pitch that will be used may not have the bounce it is famous for, because of unseasonal rains that have hampered preparations, opined curator Daljeet Singh. Considering that nobody knows how exactly the surface will behave, both captains might want the other one to decide whether to bowl or bat first.

With different elements being punched into what is already a heady mix, this Test promises some riveting action. Sparks will fly during the game and there may be scars after it. Before it, one has to tighten the seatbelt and hope that the rain stays away.

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