Tendulkar back to ease pressure on India

Sachin Tendulkar's return to the fray has added spice to a series full of fascination. Armed with a lighter bat and memories of Test centuries already scored in this city of oranges, the professor's son today resumed the duel with Australian bowlers that has been such a invigorating part of a fine career.

Though he had not faced a competitive ball for two months, India's "little master" said he was fit enough in body and mind to confront Australia in the third Test, which the hosts need to win to square the series. Doubtless the return of India's leading batsmen will inspire a side denied the services of Irfan Pathan and possibly Harbhajan Singh who has a virus. It will ease the pressure on Rahul Dravid and VangipurupuLaxman, both of whom have resembled cars in need of fresh spark plugs. Both spinners are in fine fettle and now captain Sourav Ganguly must pull his weight.

Both Tendulkar and the Australian fast bowlers will like the look of a relaid and evenly grassed pitch prepared by a local association. Rajan Nair, the local spokesman, said that only light rollers had been used so that the surface was not subdued. He pointed out that the pitch "has no cracks. Not even hairline!"

Ganguly was dismayed. "We're playing at home, where our main strength is spin. But this kind of wicket takes that advantage away from us," he said.

No changes were anticipated in the Australian line-up. Ricky Ponting intends to play at Wankhede Stadium next week, which left Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann competing for the last batting position. Lehmann must score heavily to hold his place. Australian cricket is about as sentimental as a cut cobra.

India (from): *S C Ganguly, Aakash Chopra, V Sehwag, R Dravid, S R Tendulkar, V V V S Laxman, M Kaif, ÝP A Patel, A B Agarkar, A Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Z Khan, Yuvraj Singh.

Australia: *ÝA C Gilchrist, M L Hayden, J L Langer, S M Katich, D R Martyn, D S Lehmann, M J Clarke, S K Warne, G D McGrath, J N Gillespie, M S Kasprowicz, B Lee.

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