By Manoj Vatsyayana
New Delhi: Nov 4, 2011
The fervent wait for Indian batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar's 100th international century is likely to overshadow the three-Test series against the West Indies starting on Sunday.
Tendulkar's bid for an unprecedented century of centuries has been the talking point ever since he hammered his 99th international hundred against South Africa at the World Cup in March.
Millions of fans expected Tendulkar to achieve the feat on the recent tour of England, but the batting ace headed home without a three-figure knock in the disastrous series, which India lost 4-0.
He was eventually ruled out of the subsequent home and away one-day matches against England due to a toe injury and has now gone eight games -- four one-dayers and as many Tests -- without a century.
The hosts will also look to redeem their Test image after the England tour where the whitewash saw them lose their number one Test ranking. They also lost the tour one-dayers 3-0.
India, however, returned to winning ways in the 50-over format when they blanked England 5-0 in the home one-day series last month.
India also hope to use the West Indies Tests to assess the form and fitness of their key players ahead of next month's high-profile tour of Australia.
"It's going to be an important series against the West Indies, especially after the dismal time we had in England," said middle-order batsman Venkatsai Laxman. "We want to come back strongly and regain the top position. It was great to see the one-day team respond so splendidly against England at home by whitewashing them."
"Hopefully, the Test team too will start off the season on a winning note, so that we will be high on confidence before leaving for Australia."
Tendulkar, opener Virender Sehwag, paceman Ishant Sharma and all-rounder Yuvraj Singh have all returned to the squad after recovering from injuries sustained during the England tour.
India, who won both the Test and one-day series on their tour of the West Indies in May-July, will be searching for the right bowling combination to go up against Australia.
The hosts have named four uncapped bowlers -- spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Rahul Sharma, and pacemen Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav -- in their squad in the absence of key fast bowler Zaheer Khan and spinner Harbhajan Singh.
While Zaheer is recovering from a hamstring injury, Harbhajan was axed following his poor performance on the England tour where he bagged just two wickets in as many Tests.
The West Indies won the recent Test and one-day series in Bangladesh, but will find India to be a formidable unit in home conditions.
The tourists will again be without hard-hitting opener Chris Gayle following his differences with the West Indies Cricket Board. He has not played for the West Indies since the World Cup earlier this year.
But they will be high on confidence after winning the second and final Test in Dhaka on Wednesday to record their first away series victory since 2003.
Darren Bravo and Kirk Edwards made impressive hundreds, while paceman Fidel Edwards and leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo each bagged a five-wicket haul in Dhaka.(AFP)