Cricket: England Wary of Tendulkar's Century Dream ; FIRST TEST A Patched-Up Home Side Face a Confident Indian Team Whose Top Batsman Is Keen to Pass a Lord's Milestone
Fraser, Angus, The Independent (London, England)
WHAT DO Don Bradman, Garfield Sobers, Denis Compton, Vivian Richards, Allan Border and even Michael Vaughan have on their CV that Sachin Tendulkar does not? A Test match hundred at Lord's.
For Tendulkar, a man who has passed many batting records and will surely break nearly every one that the game has to offer, this is one of the few exclusive clubs of which he he is still to become a member. Several, like the 50 international hundreds union, he has started himself, but there can be little doubt that Tendulkar would happily swap one of the 62 hundreds he has scored in his career to date for one over the next five days as England take on India in the first Test at Lord's.
This omission is a fact the little master will have found very hard to get away from as he prepared for this Test match. Each time he sits down, relaxes and looks around the visitors' dressing room he will see honours boards containing past performances at this ground which currently do not feature his name.
This board is not particularly awash with Indian success stories. Only six Indian players have scored centuries at the home of cricket and the visitors have won only one Test match, in 1986, and lost nine of the 13 played here between these two countries. Another startling omission from the roll of honour is Tendulkar's childhood hero, and the man whose pads he was wearing when he scored his debut Test hundred against England at Old Trafford in 1990 at the age of 17, Sunil Gavaskar.
Tendulkar failed to score a Lord's Test century on either that tour or on India's following visit in 1996. Alongside Alec Stewart, who today becomes England's most capped Test cricketer, Tendulkar will be keenest to mark the occasion.
Two players who have already scored centuries at Lord's are the captains, England's Nasser Hussain and India's Sourav Ganguly. Both yesterday put their teams through their final paces before today's 11.00 start, but that is where the similarity in their preparations ends.
While the visitors' build-up to this game has been fairly smooth and painless after their confidence-boosting success in the one-day series, England's has been an on-going saga of withdrawals and worries.
Hussain's problems did not end yesterday, even though every England player for once left practice in the same physical state in which he arrived. The bad news came from Sheffield, where Darren Gough, who withdrew from the England squad on Monday, saw his knee specialist and was advised to rest for a further two weeks.
There have been mutterings from Gough that he was forced to play in last week's Roses match between Yorkshire and Lancashire and this was the reason for his latest setback. Hussain was quick to talk down such a potentially damaging breach when he said: "There is no conflict between us [the selectors] and Darren. Darren wanted to play in this Test match and we told him that to do this he had to prove he could bowl for two or three days running. …