We need good starts: Dhoni
Fresh from a thrilling victory against arch rivals Pakistan in their last ODI, the MS Dhoni-led Indian side will kick off the five-match ODI series against England at the Saurashtra Cricket Association’s new stadium at Khandheri, which will be hosting its first ever international match.
The Indian side went about their drills under the morning sun at the stadium on the outskirts of the Rajkot city ahead of the match, which will start at noon tomorrow. Speaking to the media ahead of the match, skipper MS Dhoni said, “As of now everyone is fit and everyone has practiced.”
Although the victory will have boosted the confidence of the team, batting has been an area of concern in recent times on some occasions, especially the opening. Speaking about their batting, the Indian captain said, “The stats suggest that for quite some time we have not got off to a very good start in terms of a partnership. Yes, the openers have been scoring runs on and off, but we have not been able to get a good partnership between them. One of them has been getting out. We are hoping to get good starts in this series. Jinx [Ajinkya Rahane] is the new opener. He has played on and off and done decently well, so we are hoping that we will get off to a good start.”
To strengthen the batting line-up, Cheteshwar Pujara has also been included in the side. The Saurashtra player has been called up to the ODI side based on his string of successes in the longest format of the game. In the Ranji Trophy quarter-final against Karnataka, the top-order bat scored a triple-ton. However, when asked about the possibility of Pujara making his one-day debut in the first ODI against England, Dhoni explained, “Well it looks very unlikely as of now because we have to see the whole batting line-up, the position he’s ideally suited for and all those things. As of now, it looks very unlikely. Let’s see what happens tomorrow. If somebody gets unfit, then we’ll see.”
Despite the fight they have put up in their recent games, the team and the skipper have been at the receiving end of criticism. Dhoni himself has put up a fight with the bat and won the Man-of-the-Match award in the last game. The Indian skipper, who is known for maintaining his calm and taking everything in his stride said, “It [criticism] is not something that’s new to us. As Indian cricketers, you know you are supposed to do well. The moment we don’t do well as an individual or as a team, you know you’ll get to face a lot of criticism. But it’s the same when you do well, then you get a lot of appreciation. I’ve always said it’s very important to be in a good zone as a team, because if you are in a good zone, you have more chances of being successful and are able to perform.”
“Self-belief is very important. Especially in a team sport, it’s important that everybody keeps believing in themselves and understands the roles and responsibilities that they’ve got.”
Speaking about switching to different formats in a space of few days, the Indian captain said that although it is difficult to do so, as a cricketer at the highest level, one should be able to take on the challenge and adapt. “It’s quite difficult when you’re switching formats, from the longer format to the shorter format and getting into the T20 version, it is a different challenge altogether. But as an individual, at the top level, you are supposed to stand up to the kind of challenge that’s provided for you. It is tough, but the good thing is we have played three ODIs, which means we have got a fair amount of exposure in the format. The last game was especially good for us, the way we won a low-scoring game. But the conditions are very different out here, so let’s see how it goes,” he said.
Asked about the kind of planning done for an upcoming series, Dhoni said, “It’s important to not plan for the coming series, but concentrate on the present ones. The one you’re playing at that moment is the most important one. Between series, there is a two-three day break, so we use that to plan what we need to do. If you plan too much ahead, then it can cause confusion at times. It’s very important to stay in the present.”
For this particular series, India will be inaugurating yet another venue for international matches later in the series when they play in Ranchi, which is also the skipper’s home venue. Dhoni said, “It’s a big thing for me. We had an international stadium, the Keenan Stadium, where we played a few games. I think the last game we played was against England where we lost. But it was a beautiful stadium. It’s very important for the local associations to have their own ground. It’s a big effort from the association, from the President, the Secretary and all the people involved. I think overall it will be nice. We’ll be playing there after a long time. What we have seen in the small venues is they attract a lot of fans, who come and support good cricket.
"I think overall it will be very exciting. And also, it gets international recognition to the cities that have international stadiums. When I came, it was difficult to make people understand which place or city I was from, but once we have an international venue, people outside will recognise the city quite easily. It’s good for the state and very good for our city. As of now, tomorrow’s game is the most important, but as I said, it will be a different feeling for me, to go and play in Ranchi after a long time. It’s quite similar to the first first-class game I played in my city,” Dhoni said.