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Important to have faith in batsmen: Dhoni

Indian captain wants more partnerships in the middle order

By Shirin Sadikot in
India have had a rather inauspicious start to their tri-series, losing their first two games. While the four-wicket loss to Australia was a close game, the defeat against England at the Gabba was crushing.

India’s batting was dismal as they were dismissed for 153 in 39.3 overs after MS Dhoni elected to bat first. The captain put the batting failure down to lack of partnerships.

“Getting off to a good start is important, especially in these conditions. But that doesn’t mean that the openers will always have to perform,” Dhoni said after the nine-wicket loss. “What’s important is even if you lose early wickets, you need to have partnerships going while keeping enough wickets in hand during the end with a decent run-rate, and accelerate from there.

“That is the gameplan but we kept losing wickets at regular intervals. We are eating up deliveries to create partnerships but when the time comes to accelerate, we are losing another wicket,” he said.

While admitting the team’s overall batting failures, Dhoni also stressed on the importance of keeping the faith. He spoke of the toll the Test series must have taken on the batsmen and emphasized on keeping them fresh.

“This was the same batting lineup that won us the Champions Trophy in England,” he noted. “They are the same batsmen who have put in a lot of effort during the Test series. Irrespective of whether you score runs or not, the effort remains the same. It is important to have confidence in these guys.”

A crucial factor in India’s batting woes is the famine of runs from Shikhar Dhawan’s bat. The opener scored 2 and 1 in the two ODIs, thus extending his streak of low scores. Dhoni said going out and hitting himself back into form might help the left-hander.

“When you’re not scoring runs you put in a lot more effort and it takes all the more out of you. At times when you have a string of low scores, it is better to just go out there and express yourself,” the captain said.

“That’s something that Adam Gilchrist used to do – when he was completely out of touch, he started to play his shots from the first ball. You play two good shots and all of a sudden you’re in form. That’s something that could work for Shikhar.”

Virat Kohli has batted at No. 4 in both matches instead of coming in at his regular No. 3 position. Dhoni said it is a ploy to add meat to the middle order.

“We have to strengthen the middle and the lower middle order. If early wickets fall, Virat can go in at four with still a lot of time on his hand,” he said. “He can create partnerships and hold one end up while we can all look to give him company on the other end.”

Another surprising move from Dhoni was to entrust Stuart Binny with the new ball, along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The skipper said it was one of the things they want to try before the World Cup.

“We have to see what the best way is to use him,” he said. “Stuart can certainly swing the ball and we wanted to see what he can do with the new ball because that opens up new options for us.

“Now we know what he can do with the new ball and by the time this tri-series ends we will be exactly sure when and how we want to use him. That clarity of thought will help us deciding the playing XI.”

When asked to describe why Axar Patel was chosen ahead of R Ashwin in this game, Dhoni said it was to give the youngster some match practice going into the World Cup.

“We have to give everyone enough games. Ashwin has been part of the team for a long time now and has played many matches outside the subcontinent,” Dhoni said. “With more matches under his belt, Axar will improve further. His batting will also get better as he plays more in these conditions.”

The team has been in Australia since two months now and there are another couple of months ahead of them including the World Cup. Dhoni said they have reached a stage where rejuvenation of mind and body is as important as working on their skills.

“We have spent enough time here now to know the conditions. Now it’s all about being fresh mentally and physically,” he said. “We have a four-day gap before the next match and we will look to use this time to gain that freshness because we have to be here for two more months.

“There haven’t been any signs of the fatigue yet but it is wise to device a coping system before the symptoms are evident.”