tendulkar-sachin-110401

Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar walks onto the field for a training session at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Friday. ((Tom Shaw/Getty Images))

There's no bigger celebrity than India's Sachin Tendulkar in the cricket-obsessed country of 1.2 billion people.

So when the "Little Master" enters his home ground for Saturday's Cricket World Cup final against Sri Lanka, it's safe to assume most will be watching.

That's a big audience — a vast chunk of the world's population.

With a clamour of desperate fans trying to get into the already sold-out 33,000-seat venue, prices on the black market have skyrocketed.

It seems everybody in India wants to be there in case Sachin Tendulkar scores his 100th international century and India wins its first World Cup title in 28 years.

Even the impartial International Cricket Council chief executive Haroon Lorgat last week conceded it would be a "fairytale ending" if Tendulkar reached the milestone in a final at home.

Sri Lanka has plenty to play for, not least to send Muttiah Muralitharan into retirement with a second World Cup title to go with his record for wickets in international cricket.

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara thinks all the focus on India will help his team.

"Playing in front of your home crowd adds to the excitement, the passion and the pride that you feel," Sangakkara said. "But the weight of expectation, when you feel that crowd looking at you to do everything right, is also tough.

"Everyone in the world expects [India] to turn up tomorrow and win this game."

Tendulkar has handled pressure throughout his two-decade career, earning him just about every batting record available. But he hasn't won a World Cup in five previous attempts. He got close in 2003, but India lost the final by 125 runs to Australia.

Some critics suggested Mahendra Singh Dhoni's squad might drop the ball after all the energy and excitement of beating archrival Pakistan in the so-called "final before the final" at Mohali on Wednesday. Prime Ministers of both countries attended and cricket diplomacy took the front seat.

According to Dhoni, there's no chance of that.

"It is not about quarters or semis but the final [and] how you turn up on the field and what you do," he said. "Until that full stop … that sentence is not complete."

If India wins the title, it will have beaten every previous World Cup champion along the way, including three-time defending champion Australia in the quarter-finals.

"Every match has been a challenge for us," Dhoni said. "In the quarter-finals and semifinals, we had to be at our best.

"Playing Pakistan is always tough, especially when you come to know about the list of guests."

Dhoni said his team was yet to peak, and was saving it for the final. Tendulkar has scored two hundreds and just missed out another with an 85 against Pakistan, albeit courtesy of four dropped catches from Pakistan. Zaheer Khan has been the leading seamer in the tournament with 19 wickets and Harbhajan Singh started finding his range with two key wickets against Pakistan.

The Sri Lankan team contains three of the five leading scorers in the tournament, including No. 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan and No. 5 Upul Tharanga, the opening pair. Sangakkara, who bats at three, is fourth on the run-scoring charts for the tournament.

There is some doubt over Muralitharan, whether his extensive list of nagging injuries will hinder him or prevent him from playing. That's unlikely. It is set to be Muralitharan's last game in international cricket. He is the only player from Sri Lanka's 1996 winning squad who is still active.

Allrounder Angelo Mathews was ruled out of the Sri Lankan squad on Friday after injuring himself in the semifinal win over New Zealand. Sri Lanka added a spinner to the team, seemingly as cover more for Muralitharan than the seamers.

Sri Lanka won the last tournament staged in Asia, beating India in the semifinals in 1996 when officials awarded the result by default due to crowd disturbances at Calcutta when India was only two wickets from losing anyway. Sri Lanka won the final against Australia at Lahore, Pakistan.

Sri Lanka is co-host again this time, yet playing abroad in the deciding match. India, the senior partner in the co-hosting arrangement, is striving to be the first team to win the World Cup on home soil.

Sangakkara is determined to walk out of Wankhede as captain of the winning team, not the team that spoiled Tendulkar's big day.

"We're not here to spoil anything," he said. "Everyone understands the importance of scoring runs in a final, whether it be Sachin or anyone else.

"One hundred hundreds, it's the first time a player is going to get there. All of that adds to the expectations for a World Cup final.

"Our job is to ensure that the India team doesn't score too many runs."