Sydney: The spotlight is firmly on Little Master Sachin Tendulkar as he chases an elusive 100th international century, but Australia captain Michael Clarke said he won't be surprised if Ricky Ponting is the one walking away with a ton during the second Test starting in Sydney on Tuesday.
"The way Punter is batting at the moment, he is not far away from a big one. One thing I know about him is if he gets to 100, he won't be stopping there since he's got a very good record at the SCG. I know he loves playing here, so it wouldn't surprise me if he walked out and made a 100 in this Test," said Clarke.
Ponting has hit 39 centuries in his 159-Test career, but a three-figure knock has eluded him for the past 17 Tests and 33 innings so far. His last hundred was against Pakistan at the Bellerive Oval, Hobart two years ago.
Ponting has a brilliant record at the SCG, where he has scored 1346 runs from 15 Tests at an average of 64.10 with five centuries.
The former Australian captain gave a hint of the things to come with two half-centuries in very demanding batting conditions at the MCG last week.
Clarke, inevitably, wished Tendulkar to get his hundred after the series and not while the contest is on in the present series.
"I hope his 100 doesn't come until the next series because I'd love to watch it on television. But he's been such a great player and certainly deserves all the credit he's received," he said.
While acknowledging Tendulkar's mastery, Clarke believed the conditions at the SCG could test him out.
"I think there's going to be enough in the wicket. There's a tinge of green there; it's a little bit tacky at the moment. I think it's going to be quite tough to bat on day one, but the sunshine obviously helps."
"Tendulkar is great for cricket; he is a legend of this game and he's as good as I've seen in my time. Everybody that plays against him knows how good a player he is and you have to try and get him out early and if you don't, he's very destructive as we've seen over a long period of time," Clarke said.
Clarke also felt Tendulkar's 100th international hundred will inject life into the dwindling popularity of Test cricket.
"I think it is great for cricket. The build-up has been outstanding for the fans, who have got another reason to come and watch Test cricket," Clarke said.
Clarke will be leading Australia for the first time on this ground, which will be hosting its 100th Test. The 30-year-old described the opportunity as a great honour.
"It is nice to be playing here in SCG as always, and very special to captain Australia in the 100th Test here. I think it will sink in the next 24 hours. It has been a busy time, coming from Melbourne and a lot of training ahead of the match. But to have family and friends watching me, it is certainly an honour and a privilege to be leading Australia."