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Pacers refreshed after break: Dhoni

Indian skipper says his tiring pace bowlers are back on the radar

Indian pace bowlers did a remarkable job in the first two Tests, at Trent Bridge and Lord’s, often out-bowling their English counterparts in their own backyard. However, there was a marked difference in their performance in the third Test.

India lost Ishant Sharma to injury and his absence was felt. Pankaj Singh bowled his heart out but went wicketless on his Test debut. And MS Dhoni admitted after the match that Bhuvneshwar Kumar was a bit tired after the workload in the first two matches.

Going into the Old Trafford Test with the series in balance, Dhoni hopes his quicker bowlers are refreshed after the five-day gap since the last match.

“The match will really tell us how fresh they really are. In the break, best we could have managed is work on fitness and manage their workloads, and we have done that really well. So I hope that when we turn up on the field they will be fresh and raring to go,” Dhoni said.

Although Dhoni rued his bowling attack’s inability to pick 20 wickets in Southampton, he also puts the onus on his batsmen to give the bowlers a comfortable cushion of runs to play with.

“It is very important to pick 20 wickets to win a Test but we cannot forget that it is also important to score runs,” the captain said. “If u get 500-550 runs, the opposition batsmen will be under pressure unless they bat well for two-three sessions.

It is important in cricket that the pace of scoring and getting wickets is in balance. If opposition gets more than three runs per over but are losing wickets regularly it is good because they won’t get a lot of runs. We have worked on it over the last couple days and strategy wise things are looking positive.”

On his bowling combination for the fourth Test, Dhoni sad, “We couldn’t take a lot of wickets in the last match, dropped a few catches as well and it didn’t look like we will take 20 wickets on that pitch. So we will see how the wicket is and then we will see who our best four-five bowlers are on this pitch.”

If India are to bat England out, they will need more runs from the blades of the likes of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. While Pujara has one half-century against his name, Virat has been struggling to get past the 30s.

Dhoni feels a big knock is just “around the corner” for his No. 4 batsman. “What you need to see is that Virat is batting really well,” Dhoni said. “At times you get out to good deliveries or you just get out. But I feel he is batting well and is looking in good nick. So, it is just a matter of time.
“He may not have converted his starts into big innings but the kind of talent he is we know a big score is around the corner and he will come strong.

The skipper also believed a dull patch like this will help Virat grow as a batsman. “Also, this is a phase that will improve him as a cricketer. If you only go through one phase – if you are doing only well or only doing badly for a long time – it doesn’t improve you. It is the fluctuation that improves you as a cricketer and as a team. It’s a constant process. And this phase will make him a better cricketer,” Dhoni said.

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Relieved that Anderson is available: Cook

England captain is pleased with the not guilty verdict for his spearhead

Even as the ICC has put a full stop to the James Anderson-Ravindra Jadeja altercation issue, the two captains continued to face questions about it at the pre-match media conference on the eve of the fourth Test at Manchester.

Both MS Dhoni and Alastair Cook said the teams have put the issue behind them and are focusing on the job ahead.

"It's been a really good couple of days off the field for us in terms of making sure Jimmy is available to play and the whole incident is behind us and we can concentrate on playing cricket,” Cook said. “We don't have to talk about it any more, hopefully not too much more and we can get on with playing cricket."

Cook also said there is no enmity between the two sides after the incident. "I think the way both sides have played this series has been fantastic, apart from that one incident which has been blown up. I thought both sides have been very competitive and played it in the right way and in the right spirit."

The biggest relief for the England captain was that Anderson’s non guilty verdict means he will have his ace bowler by his side in the last two Tests.

"He's a little bit less grumpy, which is always nice for Jimmy,” Cook said when asked about Anderson’s relief. “But actually in those last couple of Test matches, with this hanging over him, he's bowled really well. I don't think it's really affected his performance on the field at all.

“It's great that this is now behind him. He gets to play in a home Test match, which I know is very special for every guy who gets to play in a home Test match. For him to be playing here means a lot to him. I think that's what the biggest concern was, that he wouldn't get to play at Old Trafford."

Cook was also pleased to have an in-form Steven Finn in the squad again. Finn has replaced the injured Liam Plunkett.

"From when I last saw him in an England shirt, to what he's now delivering for Middlesex and when he briefly bowled at Lord's, it's just great for English cricket that Finny is getting back to his best. To add him into the pile of fast bowlers can only be a good thing, to add more competition.

“He's very different to what we have got: he's a tall bowler who when he gets it right bowls at near 90mph. So that's a great thing to add to the pot and I am pleased for him that he's managed to, it's obviously been a very tough six months for him personally. He’s fought through it and I'll think he'll be a stronger bloke for it and it will bode well for his cricket."

About his own return to the form after a long famine of runs, Cook said while the 95-run knock in the first innings of the Southampton Test has taken a monkey off his back, he will start from the scratch when he walks in to bat at the Old Trafford.

"Great that I scored runs last week. It was a big relief off my shoulders,” he said. “But it's only one game. We're approaching this game as a team and last week counts for nothing. Same goes for my batting, I want to be consistent and score big runs and there's another opportunity this week.”

He, however, admitted that runs under his belt makes it easier for him to lead the team.

“It does make it easier because you’re not asking people to do stuff which you haven’t been doing. That’s always a hard thing for any captain when he’s out of form. You’re telling the guys what to do and you’re not backing up your own words. Two innings don’t change it too much but it does make it easier,” Cook said.

Cook praised his batsmen for tiring the Indian bowlers out in the third Test and batting India out of the match. "We put a lot of wear and tear into Indian bowlers in that game, that's how you win Test match series.

"We put a lot of miles in their legs like they did to us at Trent Bridge, which effected us at Lord's. At the start of this game it's nil all and you've got to earn the right to put miles in their legs again.”