All eyes on Tendulkar
'Little Master' renews his quest for 100th international century
Last Updated: 04/11/11 7:00pm
Tendulkar: Stuck on 99
India face West Indies in the first Test at Delhi on Sunday, with Sachin Tendulkar's continuing quest for an unprecedented 100th international century sure to be the focus of attention.
The 38-year-old 'Little Master' has been stuck on 99 ever since March when he hit a ton in India's World Cup win over South Africa.
Tendulkar's attempts to reach three figures were subsequently thwarted as India struggled during their summer tour of England, where he battled both a toe injury and poor form in the four Tests before heading home prior to the one-dayers.
He has since recovered and will be fully expected to complete the feat on home soil against a West Indies team who recorded a rare away series win in Bangladesh last month.
West Indies coach Ottis Gibson is hopeful the hysteria around Tendulkar may distract India - who play Test cricket for the first time since being whitewashed 4-0 in England - although he admits he expects the veteran to reach the mark during the three-match series.
"I feel if there is too much hype, it would be tough for Tendulkar," Gibson said after a practice session at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday.
"But Tendulkar is a legend and he would get it anyway any time soon."
India will be looking to bounce back from their humbling in England, which saw them lose the number one Test ranking, and have made a number of changes to their squad.
Veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh has been axed with R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Rahul Sharma to take over the spin duties.
Zaheer Khan is also not yet fit, meaning the hosts will look to the future of their pace bowling with the uncapped Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav selected.
Their inclusions are significant ahead of the winter tour to Australia - where the quicks will be relied upon - and batsman VVS Laxman admits the series will be important as they look to get back to winning ways.
"It's going to be an important series - especially after the dismal time we had in England," he said.
"We want to come back strongly and regain the top position.
"Hopefully, the Test team will start off the season on a winning note so that we will be high on confidence before leaving for Australia."
Gibson believes his side's hopes of backing up their 1-0 series win in Bangladesh will rest on their pacemen.
While the pitches in India are likely to favour the spinners, Gibson - a former West Indies quick himself - believes his fast bowlers hold the key to success.
"Over the last six to 12 months our fast bowlers, Ravi Rampaul, Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach and Darren Sammy have done well and won us matches," Gibson said.
"We know that India obviously will be heavy on spin but we believe in the quality of our fast bowlers.
"We believe that we have the quality to back ourselves. We know that the ball doesn't swing very long. You need to have added skills and we pay a lot of attention to that.
"We are skilled enough to reverse it and get wickets as well."