We’ll field our best XI: Dhoni
Sydney, Feb 25: Ahead of India’s must-win game against Australia on Sunday, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni elaborately discussed the team composition and the roles of different individuals in the side.
Excerpts from his pre-match press-conference:
On the team’s batting strategy
What’s important is we can pick and choose [the deliveries to hit] initially. The game has changed slightly with the use of two new balls, one at each end. So, if the top order can stay for longer and we have wickets in hand, we can look to accelerate later. That should be the mantra as of now. It has not been going really great for us, but that’s how we will look to work things out.
On the team’s mental outlook at the moment
I am not disappointed because every time an individual goes on to the field he wants to perform. But at times you can’t perform. It has happened to each and every one who has played international cricket. It’s just that most of our batsmen haven’t done consistently well in the series so we are feeling the pressure. If you think of the first six batsmen as a unit, we need three or four of them to get runs. It doesn’t matter who the person is as long as you do well as a team. When the team’s winning, you can give those extra few games to an out-of-form individual. But when you are struggling, it becomes difficult to give that leeway. You have to go by the demands of the game, and right now we are not in a very good situation. It’s a do-or-die scenario, and the best XI will be feature based on fitness and availability.
On sending in pinch hitters up the order
We have got three proper openers in our side. I don’t see a good reason for sending in a pinch-hitter. All three of them score at brisk pace. Once they get in, they score in boundaries, and they are good at taking singles. There is no requirement of a pinch-hitter if all three of them are playing.
On winning the remaining two matches
It’s important to look at one match at a time. The fact that these two are must-win games for us has made the calculation easier. Rather than thinking of anything else we just need to win them. How we win is not important. Each and every player has a clear view of what needs to be done. So that really helps you perform to some extent. We are hoping it will go our way.
On whether Irfan Pathan has booked his place in the XI
He has done well. What’s good is he has improved in his bowling. He has bowled for us with the new ball, in the middle overs, and also at the death. So, he is an asset to have. It is good to have a seaming allrounder, but I won’t put pressure on him. I will still call him a bowler. And he can always come in and contribute with the bat.
On the idea of playing an extra bowler
More than the bowling, we have struggled with our batting. So, if we play an extra bowler, our bowling will look thin as we’ll then have Irfan coming at 7, and Ashwin at 8. I don’t think it’s an option, especially in this particular game. Hopefully, in the future, once we are doing well and all the top five or six batsmen are performing really well, we can think about it.
On having an additional specialist batsman at No. 7
It is a tough one again. You need to weigh the positives and negatives. If the opposition score 20 or 30 extra runs, it may be difficult to score even with that extra batsman. We have to see the nature of the wicket. If it is too dry and will assist our spinners – because most of our part-timers are spinners – they can exploit the conditions well. It depends on a lot of variables
On fitness and availability of the players
Vinay [Kumar] is doubtful. Zaheer Khan is not fit. All the rest are available.
On Praveen Kumar
He is swinging the ball despite coming back from injury and dropping down in pace a bit. From bowling at just over 130, he bowled at 125 kmph and below in the last match that he played. He was also a fraction short. If you bowl short at that pace, batsmen have more opportunity to cash in. We wanted him to work on that aspect, which he has been doing. He has improved but ultimately we will have to see how good he is.
Also, the bowlers who played in his place have done well. Vinay is bowling really well. Zaheer has done well. Umesh has been a touch expensive, but he is someone who is capable of giving us wickets when they’re really needed. He is different; he has a bit more pace. That’s the reason we’re sticking with him. We all know Praveen is very talented. He can swing the ball, and bowl in the right areas. I think he must have utilised the time off in the best possible way to work on the things, what he needs to work on. Hopefully, he will be ready just in case Vinay doesn’t play. There’s a very good chance that we may feature Praveen.
On lessons learnt from watching Sri Lanka beat Australia twice
It’s important to keep learning from each and every game. Having said that, it is also important to stick to your own strengths as a team, which is what Sri Lanka and Australia have been doing. Also, we’re looking not to repeat the mistakes we’ve committed in the past games, which will help us perform better in the coming matches.
On motivating the youngsters in the side
It’s important to keep having a chat with them. What’s also crucial is to see what kind of impact that chat can have with on individual because the same words can have different meanings, depending on the result of the game. It is important to take them forward in a positive way where they understand what needs to be done. That’s why I believe the best time to address the issues is when you’ve won a close game despite committing many mistakes. That’s when people take it in a positive way.
When you have lost a game, when people are a bit low, I don’t think that’s the right time to pin-point the mistakes committed on the field. Doing that can actually put pressure on the individuals. And it’s not only me; the coach and the senior players too help them out. They help them read a situation. If you are reading the situation well, you won’t commit the mistakes very often.
On whether India will continue to rotate players
We are not looking to rotate, because the injuries are rotating players anyway. We could afford to rotate players during the first half of the tournament because there’s no pressure. As the tournament progresses and especially when you are in a do-or-die situation, you play the best XI available.
On the run-out incident involving Lahiru Thirimanne
It was important to appeal. The reason being it’s in the law that the batsman can’t back up too early too much. Often it is put on the opposition captain to make a decision [which is not appropriate]. If it’s part of the rule, it’s not wrong [to appeal]. If you are saying somebody was cheating then in this case it was the batsman backing up who is cheating, because he is not allowed to do that. So, I think [running him out] was a fair thing to do. You can’t always have the batsman going so far ahead because if the ball goes to short fine leg, point or short-third man, he is in a better position to complete the run.
On Rahul Sharma
Everyone is in contention, but what’s important is to see if we are happy to play two fast bowlers and three spinners. That can have a big impact on the game. We may be found wanting just in case one fast bowler has an off day. And it may become a bit difficult to rotate with three spinners. Most of our part-timers are spinners so, if we are playing three fast bowlers and two spinners, and if we still need more overs of spin, there are people who can chip in. If an extra fast bowler is needed, and we don’t have one, we will be strangled with almost the same kind of bowling attack. Rahul has done well in the games that he has played in, be it T20 or the first 50-over game, which turned into a T20.