Bangalore: Murky weather and injuries have cast a dark shadow with just a day left for the third and final Test between arch rivals India and Pakistan to be played at the M Chinnaswamy stadium here tomorrow.
India has dominated over their rivals so far, both in One-day and Test series and are leading 1-0 after the drawn Test at Kolkata.
With the injured skipper Shoaib Malik ruled out for the final Test stand-in captain Younis Khan will lead Pakistan in the crunch tie to enable the visitors square up the series.
The Indian team is also spate of facing injury problems with star batsman Sachin Tendulkar and vice-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni being the latest inclusions in the injury list.
However skipper Anil Kumble told the pre-match press conference that a decision on playing either one of them would be taken only tomorrow. Dhoni has been advised a week's rest. Apart from the nagging right angle injury, he suffered during the ODI series against Pakistan, the Indian wicketkeeper hurt his webbing on the left hand during the practice session yesterday. The injury is said to be minor.
India's preparation for the crucial clash had been marred by injuries with the team taking a hard hit in the pace department.
After R P Singh was sidelined earlier, Munaf Patel an Zaheer Khan was out of the team for the third Test due to injuries. This has forced the selectors to induct Irfan Pathan, VRV Singh and Murali Karthik in the squad.
Bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad said the injury problems to the speedsters were not entirely unexpected in view of the heavy schedule. ''We have the necessary back up force. But absence of key pace bowlers has been a setback. We will make full use of the other available bowlers to keep up our performance level,'' he said.
Though the meteorological department has forecast clear skies from tomorrow, dark clouds hovering over the city, which experienced low and intermittent drizzle was causing anxiety among the Karnataka State Cricket Association officials over conduct of the Test. ''Weather is likely to clear by Saturday and sun is expected to come out over the weekend as the trough of low pressure over the Bay that caused the cloud cover has moved away from the coast,'' IMD local office director G S Vijayaragavan had said.
The Bangalore pitch offers an excellent stage for a five-day game with first three days being more conducive for stroke making, while bowlers can also expect some good bounce. The third and four day, spinners may have a bigger say.
According to pitch curator Narayana Raju, the wicket, despite offering good bounce, will help batsman during the first three days.
''If cloud cover persists it may help medium pacers, but batsman can have a good time if they have patience. Spinners can expect some turn in the last two days,'' he said.
Although India dominating with an impressive win in the Delhi Test, Pakistan however seemed to have made up the leeway saving the second Test at Kolkata.
But the star-studded Indian batting line up firing well, the home team still commands an edge over their traditional rivals.
Indian skipper Anil Kumble will be looking for a favourable result at his home turf to register his first series win as captain. The 37-year-old got captaincy as a Diwali gift and a win here would boost the morale of his side for sterner Tests in Australia starting later this month. Despite the presence of big stars, it has been opener Wasim Zaffer, who had been the most successful batsman for India, hitting a grand double century and two half centuries. India's domination was its batting as experienced VVS Laxman, Saurav Ganguly apart from Dhoni have been consistent.
However, hosts will have to fight hard as Pakistanis would do everything to make a come back and their luck with the Bangalore pitch, which ihthey believe will be on their side.
The visitors are yet to lose on this ground, as among the four Tests they played here, they have won two and drawn the other two.
In 2004, Younis Khan had hit a masterly 267, while Inzamam-ul-Haq had hit 184 in a Pakistan run feast.
''M Chinnaswamy stadium has been a lucky ground for Pakistan. We will go into the match with confidence and level the series,'' Younis said.
A result is also more likely as out of the last nine Test matches played on this ground, eight had been decided.
India: Anil Kumble (capt), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni (vice-capt, wk), Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, Wasim Jaffer, Ishant Sharma, VRV Singh, Murali Karthik and Dinesh Karthik.
Pakistan: Younis Khan (capt), Mohammed Yusuf, Kamran Akmal (wk), Salman Butt, Yasir Hameed, Misbah-ul-Haq, Sarfraz Ahmed, Faisal Iqbal, Danish Kaneria, Shoaib Akthar, Abdul Rahman, Mohammad Sami, Sohail Tanvir, and Rao Iftikar Anjuns.