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Team wears a settled look: Dhoni

Indian skipper feels the players who can perform in any conditions have been identified

MS Dhoni took to South Africa a very young team that lacked the experience of playing overseas Tests. However, the way his troops took responsibility and performed against the No. 1 team in the world, has given the Indian captain a lot more confidence ahead of their tour to New Zealand.

"The good thing is that though there have been quite a few changes [to the team], before we went for the last tour we got enough time in India," Dhoni said in his address to the media ahead of the team's departure for New Zealand. "Quite a few of them played few Test matches in India and we did well and were confident of their ability. Quite a few people were speculating about how the batsmen will do or how the bowlers will do [in South Africa]. Now we know we have got a set of players who will do well irrespective of where we are playing and that is a big positive.

Dhoni believes that while some players will take time to master overseas Tests, the team is going in the right direction as far as choosing the personnel is concerned. "As of now, both our [ODI and Test] squads look quite settled, which is a good thing because it's very important to back individuals. If you talk about the batsmen, not all of them have played a lot of Test matches outside the subcontinent. So they will take some time.

"But what we have seen is that almost all of them have played ODIs outside India and still they have performed really well, which gives you the confidence of saying that they have the ability to do well outside the subcontinent when it comes to dealing with pace and bounce. Yes, the red ball does slightly more and for slightly longer periods in Test matches and it's different, but if you have the talent to perform in one format, definitely you have the talent to perform in others too."

Before any tour to a western country, questions are raised over the Indian batsmen’s ability to counter pace and bounce of the wickets there. After what he saw in South Africa, Dhoni is not worried about that aspect this time.

"We have a slightly bigger challenge in the sense that if the fast bowlers bowl back of a length in India more often than not it is very difficult to leave on the bounce, but when you go outside you know you have the liberty of not only leaving on the line, but also if you judge the bounce and if the wicket has good bounce, you can leave on the bounce.

"This is something you learn over a period of time and I think the batsmen did well in South Africa, they handled good fast bowling and at the same time they were quite positive. There were quite a few things that happened in South Africa that gives us the confidence of saying that we have the talent of doing well anywhere in the world."

The Indian captain was also pleased with the growing pool of fast bowlers at his disposal. "I think there's more competition when it comes to the bowling department. One year back some of our leading fast bowlers had injuries. Back then we didn't have too many options," he said.

"But now with all of them becoming fit and being available for selection and doing well on the domestic circuit, they have enough competition amongst themselves, which is a healthy thing to have.

"There's one particular condition we have to improve on, which is on wickets that are on the drier side and just have a bit of bounce on offer and not too much of seam movement. The reason being, most of our bowlers aren't those who hit the surface. Most of them are those who swing the ball and bowl slightly up to the batsman. At times we encounter wickets that are on the drier side and you have to bang in the ball to get bounce and pace."

While the pacers are expected to play the lead role in New Zealand, Dhoni urged his spinners to be patient in unhelpful conditions. "One thing that the home team would like to do is to ensure that the wickets don't turn at all. The reason being that we don't have an allrounder. We don't play with five specialist bowlers. Over the years we have lost our part-timers who were as good as specialist bowlers.

"If the ball doesn't spin they [the opposition] can take runs off the spinner, rotate the strike and look to score over three runs an over, and that actually puts the pressure on the captain. You don't want them to score over three-and-a-half runs an over when the spinner is bowling. [Then] you're forced to bring back the fast bowlers and they end up exhausted after the first day workout.

"In that respect, Jaddu's performance was good. Also the spinners will have to accept that when they travel abroad and when they're bowling on the first-day wicket, their role is slightly different. They need to have a bit more patience and not give them runs so that you are also building pressure from one end. They get late turn from the third or fourth days and that's the time they need to go in for the kill.

"When they play more and more games outside India, they'll start accepting the fact that in their first 9-10 over spells in India they might get one-two or more wickets, [but] outside they need to be more patient in their first spell, especially if they are bowling on the first day of the Test match. It's a bit tough on them but till the time we find a seaming allrounder, they'll have to bear that."

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Kapil Dev gets BCCI 'Lifetime Achievement Award'

Ashwin wins the Polly Umrigar Award for being the best international cricketer in 2012-13

Former Indian captain Kapil Dev was honoured with Col. C K Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award by the BCCI at its seventh annual awards ceremony on Saturday.

The legendary all-rounder and 1983 World Cup-winning captain Kapil became the 21st Indian cricketer to receive the C K Nayudu Award.

“I like to thank all captains whom I played with from Bishan Bedi to Mohammad Azharuddin, for believing in me. For those who played under me, I appreciate their support,” Kapil said.

“For the Indian cricket team about to go on a tour (to New Zealand), I want to wish them all the best.”

He continued: “When you are young and playing, awards don’t matter as you are filled with passion for the game. It is only now when an honour like this comes your way, by way of appreciation from your own Board that increases the sense of happiness.”

One of the greatest all-rounders of all time, Kapil Dev was the first player to complete the 'double' of 5,000 runs and 400 wickets in Tests.

Team India member Ravichandran Ashwin won the Polly Umrigar Award for being the best international cricketer last season.

Ashwin in the 2012-13 season during which he claimed 43 wickets, inclusive of four 5WI and one 10WM, and scored 263 runs, inclusive of two 50's from 8 Tests, besides grabbing 24 wickets from 18 ODIs, and three wickets from four T20 Internationals.

“I am happy and proud to be on this stage where legends of Indian cricket have been honoured. It would not have been possible without my teammates,” said the Indian off-spinner, named the Best International Cricketer for 2012-13.

The Polly Umrigar Award comprises a trophy and a cheque for Rs 5 lakh and the award has been won in previous years twice by Sachin Tendulkar (2006-07 and 2009-10) and once each by Virender Sehwag (2007-08), Gautam Gambhir (2008-09), Rahul Dravid (2010-11) and Virat Kohli (2011-12).

Here’s the full list of the winners at the BCCI Annual Awards 2012-13.