Tendulkar's chance to reach 1000 at a venue
Given that India are the third-ranked team according to the ICC rankings, and are playing at home against the sixth-ranked West Indies, it's clear who the favourites are going into this series. Almost everything in this series revolves around Sachin Tendulkar, but there are other incentives for both teams: a series win will lift India to No.2 from their current third position, while West Indies will improve from sixth to fourth if they win the series.
India lost a home series against England last year - and one of the Test defeats was at the Eden Gardens - but since then they've thrashed Australia 4-0, and they'll also remember that they notched up a comfortable 2-0 series win the last time West Indies toured, in a three-Test series a couple of years ago. The fact that they're touring again so quickly is also unusual, given that their four previous tours had come at intervals of at least seven years each - they toured in 1987, 1994, 2002 and then 2011.
West Indies have lost their last two series in India by 2-0 margins. The last time they didn't lose a series in India was in 1994, when the three-Test series was drawn 1-1. However, they are on a bit of a roll at the moment, having won their last six Tests on the trot, beating New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe by identical 2-0 margins. Admittedly, the opposition weren't the best around, but six wins in six Tests should still give the team some confidence: the last time they'd won six or more on the trot was between June and December 1988, when they won four Tests in England and three in Australia.
The last time West Indies toured India was in November 2011, and the batsmen who shone then were Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Darren Bravo. Both are around this time as well. Chanderpaul's form is as strong as ever: since the beginning of 2007 he averages 70.58, the highest among any batsman who's scored at least 1000 runs during this period. The Mumbai Test will be his 150th, though that's unlikely to be the most celebrated landmark of that Test. Chanderpaul's also generally a quick starter on tours: he averages 52.04 in the first Test of an away series, and scored 118 and 47 in the first Test when he toured India in 2011.
Bravo was the most successful batsman on that tour, scoring 404 at an average of 67.33, with two hundreds in six innings. This will be Bravo's fourth Test in India, which is more than the Tests Brian Lara played in India over his entire career.
West Indies will also be bolstered this time by the presence of Chris Gayle, who'd missed the 2011 tour. With Marlon Samuels around as well, the West Indies middle order is a fairly experienced one.
|Shivnarine Chanderpaul||6||491||54.55||2/ 1|
|Darren Bravo||3||404||67.33||2/ 0|
|Marlon Samuels||4||289||41.28||1/ 2|
|Kirk Edwards||3||227||37.83||0/ 2|
|Chris Gayle||3||160||32.00||0/ 1|
|Darren Sammy||3||110||18.33||0/ 0|
|Kieran Powell||2||106||26.50||0/ 1|
India's spinners did the job against Australia, with R Ashwin taking 29 wickets at 20.10, but India will probably miss Ravindra Jadeja, who took 24 wickets at 17.45. Pragyan Ojha is likely to be India's second spinner, but West Indies' left-handers will fancy him, given that he averages more than 53 runs per wicket against left-hand batsmen in his Test career so far.
While there are other aspects of interest during the series, the centrepiece is clearly Sachin Tendulkar. He has played 12 Tests in Kolkata and averages 47.88, with his highest score - 176 - also coming against West Indies, in 2002. That century came in the second innings, and saved India the blushes: after trailing by 139 in the first innings, India had slumped to 87 for 4 in their second innings, when Tendulkar and VVS Laxman put together a double-century partnership to lift India to 471 for 8. Since then, Tendulkar has gone past 50 five times in Tests in Kolkata, but converted only one of those into a hundred, when he scored 106 against South Africa in 2010.
In all, Tendulkar has scored 862 Test runs at the Eden Gardens, which puts him in third place in the all-time list, behind Laxman (1217 runs at 110.63), and Rahul Dravid (962 runs at 68.71).
|VVS Laxman||10||1217||110.63||5/ 3|
|Rahul Dravid||9||962||68.71||4/ 3|
|Sachin Tendulkar||12||862||47.88||2/ 6|
|Mohammad Azharuddin||7||860||107.50||5/ 2|
|Dilip Vengsarkar||7||645||71.66||2/ 2|
|Sunil Gavaskar||8||583||44.84||2/ 1|
If Tendulkar scores 138 runs in this Test, he'll become only the third Indian batsman, after Laxman and Sunil Gavaskar, to score 1000 Test runs at a venue. Gavaskar scored more than 1000 at two grounds - the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Tendulkar's best is 970 in Chennai, followed by 869 in Bangalore. If he doesn't get 138 here, the task will get slightly tougher at the Wankhede: he'll need 153 to get to 1000 Test runs there.
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter