Ahmedabad, Nov 3 : Fresh from their 2-0 triumph over Australia, a full-strength India go into a three-Test rubber against New Zealand here tomorrow with the focus on Sachin Tendulkar who just needs one more century to record an amazing feat of 50 Test tons.
The hosts, the world's number one ranked team, are on a phenomenal run in Test cricket, especially at home, and have lost only to South Africa (twice) since the beginning of 2008 on home soil.
India go into what is expected to be a lop-sided contest, with their tails up following the clean sweep against former world toppers Australia last month and a hat-trick of Test wins under their belt beginning with the triumph against South Africa at the Eden Gardens in February.
India have, significantly, won five of their last six Test matches at home while the Daniel Vettori-led Kiwis have arrived here from a humiliating 4-0 ODI series loss to Bangladesh in the latter's territory.
It would, therefore, need a superhuman effort from New Zealand to halt the rampaging Indian batting line up, in which Sachin Tendulkar is also in prime form, from batting them out of the contest.
Tendulkar has been in red-hot form from the beginning of this year when India toured Bangladesh. His appetite for runs and centuries has only increased with advancing years.
The 37-year-old champion cricketer has accumulated a staggering 1270 runs from his last nine Tests (15 innings), embellished by six three-figure knocks that includes two double hundreds, for a Bradmanesque average of 97.69, a feat that fetched him this year's ICC Cricketer of the Year honour.
He also scored his maiden double ton at the Motera ground here, in 1999 and against the same opposition. The Indians fans will be hoping that his 50th Test century comes at Sardar Patel stadium here.
While Tendulkar is the biggest threat with his ability to adapt to any situation and any format of the game, his protege Virender Sehwag also stands tall with his capacity to take the rival attack by the scruff and demoralise the bowling.
The return of V V S Laxman, who missed the previous match that India played at Bangalore against Australia because of a back problem, has bolstered the already strong batting which has even made light of the indifferent form of another mainstay Rahul Dravid since the tour to Sri Lanka.
Also returning to the Indian ranks to add meat to the side are opener Gautam Gambhir and lanky pace bowler Ishant Sharma who also missed the match at Bangalore.
Vijay scored his maiden century (139) and also got involved in a crucial 308-run stand with Tendulkar to help India overhaul Australia's huge first innings score and pave the way for the victory.
Pujara was promoted to one-drop in the order in the second innings and made a quick-fire 72 to help India get past the 200-plus fourth innings target.
However, both are expected to give way to the returning Gambhir and Laxman, who has played two key innings in his last two Tests.
The stylish Hyderabadi made a classy 103 not out to guide India to a series-levelling win against Sri Lanka at Colombo before uncorking his gem - 73 not out when shepherding the lower order including Ishant Sharma - to drag the team across the finishing line against Australia at Mohali with last man for company.
Dravid, who is two short of completing 200 catches in Tests, is not in prime form currently, but the Bangalore stalwart would take heart from his run-spree at this ground.
In the previous Test at this venue, he rescued India from a precarious 38 for four against Sri Lanka last November with his back-to-the-wall 177. He also scored a double hundred and a half century when last playing against New Zealand at the Motera ground seven years ago.
With Dhoni and Suresh Raina also present to prop up the lower middle order, the team's batting looks formidable, especially at home.
The Indian bowling, spearheaded by Zaheer Khan in pace and spinner Harbhajan Singh, also sports a wholesome look.
The hosts are again expected to prefer a four-man frontline attack with Khan and Sharma manning the new ball and Harbhajan and Pragyan Ojha handling the slow stuff. There are part-timers like Sehwag to fill in the fifth bowler slot.
The visitors, on the contrary, are in disarray with even their opening combination not yet settled.
Vettori, in his 100th Test for his country, and the other tour selectors have to decide whether to play the hard-hitting Brendon McCullum as an opener or at no. 3.
"I think he can set the tone opening or at number three," Vettori said before the match. Much like Sehwag does for India. He really sets the tone for the team and takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the batsmen. I think Brendon can do that role, whether it is opening or at number three", Vettori said. PTI