Bhajji still one of India’s best: Dhoni
Ahmedabad, Nov 14: The media has hyped it as the start of the ‘Revenge Series’ but MS Dhoni sees the opening Test against England, in Ahmedabad as “another Test match played with the red ball between two cricket teams”.
It might be just another Test series but Dhoni knows it’s an important one for his team as well as for England. “You play almost 60-70 percent of your cricket in your own country, so you’re supposed to be good there. Once you go to a different part of the world, it’s a fresh challenge for you. I think every country feels the same. That’s why every overseas tour is important. England too will face their challenges here,” he said.
Everyone knows the England batsmen like to face fast bowlers more than the spinners. And that draws all the attention to R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh. When asked if he is contemplating playing all his tweakers in the first Test, Dhoni said, “If we get a wicket like we had in Kanpur where we beat South Africa in 2010, we’ll go with four spinners.”
“What we also have to understand is if the wicket is conducive to bowlers, it will also help the fast bowlers get the reverse swing. So, it’s advisable to have a bowling attack that is helpful in all conditions and situations of the game.”
Ashwin and Ojha made a name for themselves as a bowling pair during the home Test series against New Zealand earlier this year, picking 31 wickets between them in two matches. And Dhoni credits their understanding of each other as the key to their recent success as India’s premier spin duo.
“They understand each other very well and that’s very important for a spin-bowling pair. If the ball isn’t turning, Ojha can keep it very tight. Ashwin will always be the more aggressive bowler, because he has got plenty of variations.
“But we have also seen that at times, Ojha gets us the breakthrough and Ashwin does the containing job. The best part is that, if there is something for them in the wicket, they make sure they play a role in the game,” Dhoni said.
With Ashwin and Ojha getting established in the Test framework gradually, Harbhajan Singh’s inclusion in the squad didn’t gain everyone’s approval. Dhoni, however, insists that Harbhajan is still one of the best bowlers in India. The captain also wants his veteran spinner to play mentor to the younger guys.
“If you take the best four of five spinners in India, Bhajji features on the list. He wasn’t part of the side for a long time and now he can come back and share his experiences with the young spinners. Ojha has played with him a lot. He can speak to Ashwin, who can learn a lot from Bhajji as I feel they’re both different kind of bowlers.”
England’s recent record has shown that their batsmen have a difficulty in dealing with unconventional spinners. Saeed Ajmal was the latest beneficiary of this weakness when England played Pakistan in the UAE recently. Ashwin, being the most unorthodox of the three Indian spinners, is seen as a major threat by the opposition in this series. “It’s not fair to compare Ajmal with Ashwin. They’re different bowlers,” Dhoni said.
“Ajmal has a great doosra is someone who generates a lot of pace to the ball that goes away from the right-hander. He’s quite special. Ashwin too has good variety and can bowl almost every delivery that a spinner can.
“He’s got the flipper, the googly, turns it to off, leg, has the carom ball. But I think it’s important for him to concentrate on his stock delivery and use the variations sparingly. I believe he has done that really well so far. With experience he’ll only get better.”
While talking about his spinners, Dhoni also had a few words on how important the slow left-arm spinners of Yuvraj Singh would be.
“He’s an aggressive character and someone who desperately wants to perform at Test level. He bats at a crucial No.5 or 6 position and is very intimidating with the bat. Also, his left-arm spinners become very important. Since we don’t have a genuine all-rounder, we often play with four bowlers.
“The part-timers’ contribution becomes especially important during the phase when the ball has gotten old and you’re waiting for the new ball to be available. At that time you cannot use your fast bowlers and you don’t want your spinners to get tired.
Dhoni also put to rest all apprehensions about Yuvraj’s elevation to Test cricket once again, after his long break due to cancer. “We all know about his fight and it shows that he is a strong character and playing cricket is all he’s ever wanted to do. I think he’ll be up and ready for it.”
There’s something more that Dhoni looks forward to from Yuvraj in this series – his duel with Kevin Pietersen.
“I never doubted that Pietersen will be part of the squad. Despite what was happening around him, I was 200 percent certain that he will tour India. He’s a great batsman, an aggressive batsman who loves to play his shots.
“We’ll enjoy the contest between him and the pie-chucker once again!”