India sweat over fitness of Tendulkar, Dhoni

Published: Friday, December 7, 2007, 14:06 [IST]
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India's hopes of winning the first series against Pakistan at home in more than two decades suffered a setback due to injuries to key batsmen ahead of Saturday's third and final Test.

Sachin Tendulkar has yet to recover from a knee injury, while wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni is doubtful due to an ankle injury sustained during a one-day series against the tourists.

India, who last won the Test series against Pakistan at home in 1980, currently lead 1-0 following their six-wicket win in the opening Test in New Delhi. The second match ended in a draw in Kolkata.

"Sachin aggravated his injury during the second Test. He continues to improve, but we need to assess his condition tomorrow morning," India captain Anil Kumble told reporters on Friday.

Opening batsman Gautam Gambhir has been included as cover for Tendulkar.

Kumble said they initially thought of resting Dhoni for the match, but would now have to wait till the last moment following Tendulkar's fitness problem.

"We are unsure of Dhoni at the moment as he needs seven days' rest to be completely fit. We now need to wait till tomorrow morning," said Kumble.

The latest health problems come just a few days after fast bowlers Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel were ruled out of the match due to injuries, forcing the hosts to name a new-look pace attack.

Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma and Vikram Rajvir Singh were included in the squad after being ignored for the first two Tests.

"Our pace attack is inexperienced, but it is also a great opportunity for youngsters to seal their places," said the Indian captain, leading the side for the first time on his home ground.

"It will be emotional going for the toss as I have spent my last 20 years in this ground. The onus is now on us to ensure we win the series. Pakistan will come back strongly and we have to make sure we play to our potential."

Skipper Younis Khan said Pakistan needed to seek inspiration from their series-levelling win here two years ago.

"That win is a motivation, and positive thinking is the key to level the series. We have no option but to win and we have to play hard cricket," he said, a day after media reported he was unwilling to lead in this match.

"There is always pressure in India-Pakistan matches, but the key is how to handle it."

Pakistan trailed 1-0 in 2005 before squaring the three-Test series with a victory at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here under Inzamam-ul-Haq's captaincy.

Younis, leading the side in the absence of unfit Shoaib Malik, conceded he had never really enjoyed captaincy.

"I always run away from captaincy because I want to enjoy my cricket. It affects my batting, but it comes to me every time. The more I run away from it, the more it chases me," he said.

"I accepted vice-captaincy for this tour only on request and I want to do my best."

Younis was named captain for the 2006 Champions Trophy in India, but turned it down. He was reinstated just a few days before the tournament.

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