Australia are wary of Sachin Tendulkar ahead of the SCG's 100th Test, an occasion seemingly scripted to produce his 100th international century. Before the teams trained at the ground on New Year's Day, Michael Hussey said Tendulkar's return to the scene of three of his most satisfying innings carried portents of doom for the hosts.
Tendulkar was denied a hundred in Melbourne by a sharp delivery from Peter Siddle in the first innings, then sank with the rest of the batsmen in the second. But in each innings he showed the sort of touch that may easily bloom into a large score at the SCG, and Hussey said he was "nervous" at the thought.
"I am a bit nervous because the stars seem to be aligning with Sachin needing one more 100," Hussey said. "The 100th Test match in Sydney - he's made runs here before - it's a little bit ominous but hopefully we can make him wait until after this series and he can get a 100 in the first game of the next series that he plays."
Enthusiasm for Tendulkar's pursuit of his next 100 is vast among followers of the game both Australian and Indian, and Hussey remarked on the odd sensation of playing before a home crowd willing an opponent on towards success. "I do find that strange," Hussey said. "I can assure you that everyone in our dressing-room does not want him to make a 100. I think our bowlers down in Melbourne did an outstanding job, not just to Sachin but to all of their batsmen.
"They've got one of the best batting line-ups ever and the plans that we set and the way they [the bowlers] executed them were second to none. For a reasonably inexperienced attack to be able to do that job, and for long periods of time which is something we've been really working on, it's a real testament to the bowling group."
Irrespective of how well Australia's bowlers performed in Melbourne, they know Sydney may be quite a different scenario. While the pitch will offer some early assistance to the quicks, it shows less of the green tinge that has characterised its appearance in the previous two Test matches against England and Pakistan.
"Just from walking across the ground, it [the pitch] looks a lot less green than it has been over the last few years," Hussey said. "Certainly, in the last few years, I think the Sydney pitch has changed texture from when it used to be a real dust bowl and helped the spinners. The last few years have been really seamer friendly and there's been overhead conditions to help that as well."
In 2004 India stacked up a leviathan 7 for 705 in the first innings at the ground, while four summers ago it was 532, before Australia recovered to win in dramatic and acrimonious circumstances. Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid played in each match and will want to emulate those tallies.
"They're very experienced players. They know their game so well. They've played in Australia before," Hussey said of India's batsmen. "So I would expect them to bounce back very hard and we're going to have to make sure we're ready for a real counterattack. They'll be very determined.
"[But] we can take a lot of confidence out of the game in Melbourne. The way our bowlers were relentless with their line and length to the Indian batsmen, they know they're going to be in for a tough series."