Dhoni urges pacers to show endurance

Indian skipper asks his faster men to be prepared for bowling long spells

Ahead of the first Test in Auckland, MS Dhoni has urged his men to display similar fighting attitude they did in the South Africa Tests.

"If we consider the last series we played, we had one bad session, two-and-a-half-hours of bad cricket. Compared to the cricket we played throughout the series, that was really good," said Dhoni.

"We have not capitalised when we had crucial situations in the game. That is the only area of concern to some extent. The batsmen batted really well, but just those couple of hours where we did not do well (cost us the series). We have seen in this format, it can have a big impact on the game.

"It is important that when we are in a situation where we can command authority or dictate terms, it is very important we go through that phase and keep building on it.”

After the 0-4 drubbing in the ODI series, Dhoni says his team is on track for a comeback in the longer format. "We have had just enough time to get back into the groove. We had a practice game also. It is enough time, especially since we played five ODIs here. Most of the team remains unchanged. They have already had a look at the wickets, what they will be like, how they will play," he said.

It is expected that the hosts will serve up a green wicket for their pacers to demolish the batsmen. Dhoni expects his batsmen to fair better in the five-day format than they did in the ODIs.

"More than the amount of grass, it is whether the grass is lively or not or the base of the wicket has moisture or not. These are the two things that push you to take a decision," he said.

"The plus point in Test matches is that you can pick and choose when you want to hit it and when you don't," Dhoni said. "At times, the ODIs get dominated by how many runs the opposition have scored and how many you are chasing. We chase more often than not. "If the opposition has scored 280 or 290 odd and we don't get too many runs in the first ten, the following batsmen have to play their strokes as the asking rate keeps rising if you keep leaving the balls. That is the only difference.

The Indian captain asked his pacers to prepare themselves mentally and physically to bowl long spells.

"Their approach (in South Africa) was really fantastic. As a team, we like to give them short spells so that they are fresh thinking about the third or the fourth spell, if needed. We try to use them in short bursts. But if the situation demands, they will have to go for long spells.

"In South Africa they did a very good job. Even when we bowled too many overs, when they came for the last spell, they were still putting in a lot of effort. That is very important.”

Dhoni spoke about the important role on the hands of the senior fast bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma.

"Zaheer not only brings motivation, but also new plans and helps the youngsters to execute them. He is a real help to the fast bowlers as he is someone who has played a lot outside the subcontinent. It is always good to have an experienced bowler in the side.

"More often than not we have used Ishant as a one-change bowler. That again is a very crucial slot. At times with the Kookaburra ball, you don't get a lot of swing after 25-30 overs. It is important you keep hitting the same length and try to get the batsmen out with his extra bounce. It will be crucial for him to keep it tight, keep bowling in the same areas, keep repeating the action, keep hitting the length we want him to, and build on pressure," Dhoni said.

On the batting front, the skipper pins his hopes on his “banker”. "Cheteshwar Pujara has been really consistent. He is more of a banker. He respects the bowlers, wants them to pitch in his areas, and gives himself plenty of time. The domestic exposure has really helped him. He loves to spend some time in the middle.

"It is not easy to tempt him, to push him. Definitely he is someone who reads the game well. That's a big positive and he will only keep getting better and better.”


Tendulkar conferred with Bharat Ratna

Legendary batsman becomes first sportsperson, youngest recipient of the honour

Sachin Tendulkar was honoured with Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award on Tuesday. India’s President, Pranab Mukherjee presented the recently retired batting maestro with the award at Rashtrapati Bhawan in Delhi.

Tendulkar thus became the first sportsperson to be bestowed with the honour and at 40, also its youngest recipient.

The Bharat Ratna conferred "for performance of highest order in any field of human endeavour," is given in form of a bronze toned peepal leaf 5.8 cm long, 4.7 cm wide and 3.1 mm thick. The front of the leaf has a replica of the sun embossed on it along with the words Bharat Ratna in the Devanagari script. The reverse side contains India’s national emblem and the motto.

The announcement of Tendulkar’s nomination for the award came the day he retired from international cricket, on November 16, 2013. In his parting press conference, in Mumbai, the legend had dedicated the award to his mother, Rajni Tendulkar and “all mothers of India”.

"There are millions and millions of mothers in India who sacrifice many things for their children. I would like to share my award with them," he had said.

Tendulkar said that he was humbled and honoured to receive the Bharat Ratna.
He also congratulated fellow recipient Professor CNR Rao. "I would like to congratulate Prof CNR Rao for getting the Bharat Ratna. It is an honour to get the award with him, his contribution to the field of science is immense," he had said.