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Features and Interviews

‘Dhoni must get inventive as captain’

Sunil Gavaskar wants the Indian skipper to lead like he bats

Team India struggled in the ODI series on all fronts – the bowlers were erratic and gave away too many runs, which proved too much for the batsmen to chase. However, we saw in South Africa that ODI loss has little effect on India’s Test performance. Expect India to fight harder in the Test series.

Batting

Against the red ball and without the pressure of the mounting run-rate the Indian batsmen appeared confident facing the fearsome Proteas attack. In New Zealand they will not have to deal with as much pace as they did in South Africa and it should only better their performance.

In the ODI series, the real problem with the Indian batsmen was that they looked for big shots all the time and didn’t run enough singles. They often played with hard hands and ended up hitting the ball to the fielders. Hopefully, they would have corrected this in the last few days while putting themselves in the Test mode. A little more patience and serenity will serve them well.

They would also do well to take a leaf out of Virat Kohli’s book. An important thing about batting is visualizing small things like what shots and in which areas you will play against a particular bowler and how you will deal with certain situations. When you have played a shot in your mind, it becomes easier to execute it in the middle. Virat seems to be doing just that.

Bowling

Zaheer Khan and Mohammad Shami will definitely play. It would also be worthwhile to include Bhuvneshwar Kumar because of his ability to swing the ball. If it is overcast, Bhuvneshwar can be more than handful. Later in the innings he can be your stock bowler, bowling full and straight and creating pressure from one end. Ravindra Jadeja’s six-wicket haul in the Durban Test could put him ahead of R Ashwin in the Playing XI at Auckland.

One thing the pacers must do is bowl a fuller line. Indian bowlers lack the extra pace that makes the short ball lethal. They should stick to bowling fuller which will enable them to move the ball.

Captaincy

MS Dhoni is so inventive as a batsman. I want him to take that inventiveness to his captaincy as well. At times, it seems like when his original plan fails, he doesn’t have a backup plan to fall upon. In ODIs it can become difficult to try different things all the time because the opposition could control the game with their tempo. In a Test match you have all the time to try out various combinations, bowlers and fields and outthink the batsmen. That’s one area where Dhoni can get better.

(As told to Shirin Sadikot)


Features and Interviews

Taylor reminds me of Aravinda de Silva: Shastri

Former Indian cricketer feels Taylor, Williamson will hold key for New Zealand

New Zealand will starts as favourites in the two-match Test series and like I mentioned in my preview before the ODI series the Kiwis are a hard team to beat at home.

The Black Caps have variety and pace in their bowling attack. They have the likes of Tim Southee and Trent Boult – different bowlers who on their day can be lethal. Taking into account the conditions in Auckland, I will be surprised if they don’t leave a little grass on the pitch for the bowlers. They are playing at home and will ensure that they play to their strengths.

It also will give India their best chance because if the pitch has something for the fast bowlers then the visitors also won’t complain.

However, if the hosts decide to play on a flat track then I believe it will be advantage – New Zealand. Their bowlers will be in good rhythm and will have better understanding of how to exploit the conditions.

They have a lot of drop-in pitches in New Zealand, which are more result oriented. So whether it is Auckland or Wellington, the pitches will assist the fast bowlers early on.

The Indian batsmen will need to bat well, go through the grind and when there is some help in the wicket for the bowlers, graft runs and apply yourself and then things might ease off later. All one needs to do is go through that period and not lose four-five wickets in quick succession.

When it comes to New Zealand batting, Ross Taylor is their best batsman and with his experience he will take that into the Test matches wanting to get hundreds. I watched Ross bat in the one-day series and the thing, which impressed me the most, was his shot selection. He showed maturity by cutting down on risky shots and taking calculated risks, which resulted in consistency.

He reminded me of a young Aravinda de Silva who had every shot in the book but initially failed to convert his brilliant cameos. Later, he started understanding his game and got his shot selection right and as a result became a world-class batsman.

The youngster who impressed me was Kane Williamson. He lends stability and is a player to watch-out for. He is young and I have a feeling that he will get more runs than any other New Zealand batsman by the time he finishes his cricket.

The other strength I see in the New Zealand team is their fielding. They won’t drop too many catches and let me assure you that people who go to New Zealand thinking that batting and bowling are the two important departments come back acknowledging the importance of the fielding.

As far as the opposition is concerned, India captain MS Dhoni is an impact player and one would want to see him be himself on the tour and play an innings similar to the double hundred he played against Australia in February 2013. That is his strength. He doesn’t use it enough overseas.

(As told to Prajakta Pawar)