As he leads a young Team India to their biggest tour of the season, the English sojourn, MS Dhoni is full of hope and realistic expectations. This might be the first tour to England for most of the 18 members of the Test squad but Dhoni feels the experience in South Africa and New Zealand will come in handy for the youngsters.
“For quite a few players this will be their first tour to England but most of them have been got the exposure playing in South Africa and New Zealand,” Dhoni said. “With a few games behind them they will be at ease there. It’s also a good thing that we’re going a bit early, which will give us time to get into the groove.”
“We had disappointing series in England and Australia the last time but in South Africa and New Zealand we were in positions where we could have won matches. We weren’t able to close the games but we bowled really well. This time we need to close the games.” Dhoni said, which coach, Duncan Fletcher seconded.
“It was disappointing – 4-0 losses in England and Australia is not easy to take. This is a very young side but sometimes that’s a good thing,” said Fletcher. “Hopefully, they have learnt from the Tests in SA and NZ. If we manage to win one game, it will suddenly give them the confidence to win the series.”
When asked to state the logic behind taking an extended squad of 18 players, Dhoni said having players on the bench who are used to the conditions will stand the team in good stead in case of injuries.
“The last time in England we had quite a few injuries and we were a fast bowler short, which is a big blow,” Dhoni recalled. “This is a five-match Test series and it can be tough on the boys. What an 18-member squad does is if we have injuries, the players who will replace the injured ones will already have enough exposure of the conditions.
“The bowlers will know what lengths to bowl and how to go about their plans. If they’re not required, they will have good practice in those conditions. They last time when injuries happened, we had to fly in a lot of players who had to play without getting used to the conditions.”
Talking about his own batting, Dhoni said he will be aggressive in his approach and play his natural game. “I’ve realized that I have to be far more aggressive in my batting because I play much better that way than when I try to play like a proper batsman.
“It’s important to back your instincts and not think too much about the situation. I shouldn’t look to bat out time because there are other batsmen who can do that. If the ball is in my slot – whether it’s the first or the last – I should go for it.”
India’s overseas Test performances have been under the scanner since quite a while, and Dhoni feels organizing ‘A’ and emerging players tours to the western countries will help create a generation of Indian cricketers who are ready to play in alien conditions. He referred to India’s upcoming ‘A’ tour to Australia.
“We have been working behind the scenes to ensure that the upcoming cricketers play more matches in foreign conditions. Often when we don’t do well overseas, people say we should make fast and bouncy wickets in India. But it’s not easy, you can’t make such wickets in India. So, the more the youngsters go and play outside, the more equipped they will be when the make the big stage,” the Indian captain said.