‘Big mistake to take any side lightly’ – Dhoni



It’s been a rarity in recent times to see a full-strength India XI on  the field during a Test match. At the Motera stadium on Thursday, MS  Dhoni may finally be able to call on the best available, and with no  injuries or niggles to complain of on the eve of the game, it was a  prospect that he was looking forward to. “We have important series  coming up,” he said. “After this, we go to South Africa and then we have  the World Cup. If you see the last few series we’ve played, more often  than not we’ve missed key players.”

The lack of continuity has been most keenly felt in the pace-bowling  department. Zaheer Khan missed the three Tests in Sri Lanka, but has  otherwise shouldered most of the pace burden, with no consistency at the  other end. “Fast bowling is a demanding job,” Dhoni said. “If a batsman  is only 70 or 80 percent, you can still gamble and play him, but with a  fast bowler you can’t do that, especially when you’re playing with two  seamers and two spinners. If you’re missing one bowler, it gets very  difficult to get through 90 overs in a day.”

New Zealand have lost eight of their last 15 Tests,  and won only two,  and were blanked 4-0 in a one-day series in Bangladesh recently. But  according to Dhoni, there was no danger of India disrespecting their  opponents or taking victory for granted. “It will be a big mistake to  take any side lightly,” he said. “They’ve got players who have performed  everywhere they have played. Whatever happened [to New Zealand] in  Bangladesh, we’re not really thinking about that.”

His own side have been ranked No.1 for nearly a year now and haven’t  lost a series since Sri Lanka in 2008. “Over the last couple of years,  we’ve done well abroad too,” said Dhoni when asked if he felt more  pressure on home turf. “That’s one thing with the Indian cricket team.  The expectation level keeps on going up. It never comes down. Once you  achieve a certain level, you’re expected to maintain that or do better  as a team. I think Indian cricketers have done well to manage the  expectations and the extra pressure.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Australia, New Zealand or  Bangladesh. We set ourselves short-term goals. When it comes to a  particular game, a lot depends on the toss.”

Talk of the No.1 ranking was greeted with the usual nonchalance.  “Winning games is closer [to my heart],” he said. “When you win games,  the ratings take care of themselves. What the players and support staff  are bothered about is how we do on the field, whether we’ve prepared  well and planned for the opposition. At times in international cricket,  you will be outplayed. But if you’ve done everything that you can, we  accept that.”

He did suggest, however, that the winning habit did much for team  spirit. “When a team has lost a few games and pressure is applied, if  they don’t start well, they tend to fragment or go in different  directions,” said Dhoni. “When a team’s used to winning, it sticks  together and waits for an opportunity to do well or go back into a  game.”

That has been illustrated in each of India’s last three Tests, when  they’ve had to chase in excess of 200 to win games. At the P Sara Oval  and the Chinnaswamy Stadium, they did so comfortably. At Mohali, VVS  Laxman’s genius helped them creep over the line in an incredibly tense  finish. “I would certainly love to win the toss [laughs], but that’s one  good thing that has happened,” he said. “In the fourth innings, batsmen  have to play cautiously and even if set, one odd delivery can get you.  It adds to the confidence of the batting unit.”

The one man in that unit under a little pressure is Rahul Dravid, who  hasn’t had the best time of it in 2010. “He’s a great player, and has  always bounced back from situations like these,” said Dhoni. “Once he’s  set, we’re hoping he gets a big score. He’s looking very good in the  nets, so we expect runs from him.”

There were encouraging words too for Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara,  prominent in that Bangalore victory but certain to miss out on places  in the XI here. “Vijay and Pujara were replacing Gautam Gambhir and VVS  Laxman,” he said. “When you have players like that coming back, they  find a place in the playing XI. But I don’t think it’s demotivating.  Vijay has always done well for India. And Pujara batted really well in  the second innings in the last game.”

India have now lost the toss in 10 successive Tests [Dhoni captained in  nine of them, missing Chittagong through injury] and the spin of the  coin aside, there will also be much attention devoted to the pitch,  which has seen scores of 76 and 760 in the last two games played at the  Motera. “Hopefully, it will be a turner,” said Dhoni with a smile.  “We’ll have to see before the start of play. It has less grass when  compared to the Sri Lanka game [November 2009] and a lot less than the  South Africa game [April 2008]. It looks like a normal Indian track.”



About eshaan00
Fan of sports. Like to play football, cricket, badminton etc. I can,t talk nicely like others. But a good listener. Like to have true friend.

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