I am sure there would be butterflies flying in the bellies of the batsmen while the seamers must be smiling ear-to-ear. Obviously, the contrasting moods of the batsmen and the seamers are quite understandable. After all, batsmen from either side made a mockery of the bowlers in the first two games and now it seems to be payback time.
Naturally, there will be more pressure on the batsmen because on lively and seaming wickets, they just can't afford to play innovative and adventurous strokes. Instead, they are required to rely more on their techniques and precise shot selections as advised in cricket manuals rather than depending purely on their reflexes.
Furthermore, the stroke-makers, after playing on flat tracks like the ones in Lahore and Faisalabad, tend to pick up bad habits that often lead to their downfalls on bowler friendly tracks like that one we are anticipating in Karachi, if not altered at the last minute.
Nevertheless, the bowlers will also need to keep a cool head on their shoulders and should not get over-excited by the look of the wicket. The more they will make the batsmen play and bowl in the corridor of uncertainty, the more they will succeed in creating problems for the batsmen. The ball would seam and swing but the real test of the bowlers would be how smart and crafty they are in controlling that movement.
Pakistan, being the home team, have the luxury of including players according to requirement and that's exactly what they have done by naming Umar Gul in the 16-man squad.
Gul is an intelligent bowler who knows his limitations and bowls in the areas where the batsmen have to play at him. He is more or less like Glenn McGrath, not express fast but keeps teasing the batsmen outside the off-stump with controlled swing.
Mohammad Asif was also impressive in the Faisalabad Test though he managed just one wicket but I believe along with the fearsome Shoaib Akhtar, they make an impressive trio with one pressurising the batsmen with his pace and aggression, and the others trying to cash in on from that build-up.
Pakistan's real problems are not in the bowling department but in the batting. There are question marks on the fitness of Inzamam-ul-Haq while Shoaib Malik is absent, mourning the sad demise of his father, and Salman Butt has not played a big innings in the series so far.
I hear India are also contemplating to include Sourav Ganguly in place of Harbhajan Singh. If true, then it is a wise cricketing move but a little injustice to Sourav who is involved in a musical chair with Yuvraj Singh for a place in the middle-order.
Sourav is badly short of match-practice and his confidence level would also be low after what has happened to him in the last five Tests. While he would be determined and motivated to prove his critics wrong, I am sure he would also be aware of the fact that if he gets a chance, then this Karachi Test would be a make-or-break for him.
The Indian batsmen should not worry too much about the reverse swing because if the square and the outfield is lush green, there is little chance that the ball would get rough before 50 or 60 overs unless Virender Sehwag keeps smashing it on the fences.
Karachi has earned the reputation of helping the ball swing in the last session of play because of the coastal winds. And the experts substantiate that theory by citing the example of that famous Imran Khan spell in 1982 against India when he swung the ball viciously.
But since that breath-taking spell, we have not experienced anything like that again because of the construction of high rise buildings in the outskirts of the stadium and the huge enclosures inside the complex.
Toss will once again be crucial but I believe both the captains would love to lose it so that they do not have to make a decision. But the interesting part is that Pakistan's recent victories in major Tests have been when they have batted first except when Pakistan won by nine wickets after Rahul Dravid made that dreadful mistake in Lahore two years ago when he elected to bat first on a seaming wicket. I am sure the ghost of that decision still haunts Rahul.
So, it seems the stage is set for a result-oriented Test but lets hope that it is not a one-sided game. Let the team that plays better cricket over the next five days win.