Azharuddin's shadow looms over skipper Sachin Tendulkar

10 October 1996

NEW DELHI, Wednesday - Sachin Tendulkar leads India for the first time in a Test match on Thursday hoping to match the astonishing home run enjoyed by his predecessor Mohammad Azharuddin.

Under Azharuddin, India won 10 of their last 14 Tests at home, helped by wickets doctored to assist the nation's traditional strength in spin bowling.

But Azharuddin, India's most successful test captain, failed to match that success abroad and he was sacked in August after India lost a Test and one-day series in England.

Tendulkar goes into the one-off Test against Australia here at the Kotla ground under pressure to produce results after two successive failures in limited-overs series in Sri Lanka and Canada.

It's a burden the champion 23-year-old batsman is willing to tackle head on -- with the aid of a spin bowling attack.

``We will go for a win,'' Tendulkar said, after convincing the selectors to include four spinners in the 14-man squad.

The last time a Test was played here, in 1993, India inflicted an innings defeat on lowly Zimbabwe in four days, with the spinners taking 17 wickets.

Current vice-captain Anil Kumble, who claimed eight wickets in that match, will be joined by left-armer Sunil Joshi and either leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani or off-spinner Ashish Kapoor in a three-man spin attack.

With the Karnataka pace duo of Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad completing the bowling line-up, Tendulkar is confident he has the armoury to break the Australians.

``We had a bad time in England, but things will change soon,'' Tendulkar said, hoping his team can pile on enough runs against an Australian attack depleted by the absence of star spinner Shane Warne.

Tendulkar knows the tourists will not be easy, despite Warne's absence and the fact only Steve Waugh has previously played a Test in India.

``I'm not taking anything for granted,'' said the pragmatic Indian skipper, a veteran of 41 tests. ``The Australians are never easy to beat. They are one of the best sides in the game, and very tough rivals.''

The Indians turned down an offer by rival skipper Mark Taylor to schedule an additional sixth day in the Test if bad weather washed out an entire day's play.

Indian board secretary Jagmohan Dalmiya said there was no provision for a reserve day in the playing conditions laid out by the two boards.

Moreover, a sixth day would have left the Indians just one day's rest before taking on South Africa in the opening match of a three-nation limited-overs series which also includes Australia.

The tourists, meanwhile, showed why they are such feared opponents when Mark Waugh returned career-best figures of six for 68 against the Indian board president's team in the match which ended in a draw on Monday.

Waugh's off-spin, along with Warne's leg-spin replacement Peter McIntyre, who returned two for 62 in 21 overs, could be crucial for Australia if the Kotla wicket behaves as the Indians hope.

Australia's new coach Geoff Marsh, who played in his team's last Test series in India in 1986, was disappointed they were playing just one Test on this tour.

``Just one match leaves you with no chance of coming back if you have a bad game,'' Marsh said. ``But we will be positive as usual and hope to win.''

The Australians return for a three-Test tour in 1998.

Source: The Daily News

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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:04