The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buzz over freshness, passion as new chapter begins today

Bangalore: If Monday was a very special day in Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s life, Saturday won’t be like just any other either. The day is going to see him lead Team India for the first time in an ODI.

There’s much riding on his debut.

Indeed, given the national mood after the World Twenty20 success, it’s possible that the opening ODI (for the Future Cup) against world champions Australia will actually mark the start of Dhoni’s innings as full-time captain.

“Are you going to accept the Test captaincy'” asked somebody at Friday evening’s media conference. Used to stumping and not getting stumped, Dhoni replied with his signature smile: “Depends on the offer!”

That, to say the least, was brilliant and the expectation is that Dhoni will inject plenty of freshness after 23 months of the Rahul Dravid era.

Incidentally, there were more shouts of “Mahi, Mahi” than “Rahul, Rahul” when Dhoni and Co. trained under the Chinnaswamy lights. Not that Sourav Ganguly (“Dada, Dada”) was forgotten.

The Australians are also going to be led by a ’keeper, veteran Adam Gilchrist, as Ricky Ponting hasn’t recovered from a hamstring injury during the World Twenty20. “It’s not a warning, but he’s definitely playing later in the series,” Gilchrist remarked.

Theek hai... Ponting’s absence is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage,” Dhoni, who hasn’t exactly had time to prepare for such a big challenge, told The Telegraph.

He didn’t add to the war of words between the Australians and a couple of his Young Turks — Sreesanth and Robin Uthappa.

“We know the Australians talk a lot when they come to India or when we tour Australia, but that means nothing... It’s their strategy... If our World Twenty20 win is history, so too is Ponting’s media conference yesterday (Thursday)... As everything is history, why make an issue'”

Gilchrist, for his part, said: “It doesn’t matter what you say, for you’ve got to back it up with performances... The Indians have done well recently, while we’ve been doing well for years... It makes for a good contest...”

He added: “We see a number of Indians as a threat... They were good enough to knock us over in the World Twenty20 semis... They played with passion and we expect the same here... For a change, India is the hunter, not the hunted...

“As for us, we’ll be playing with high skills and not emotions... The series may see the unveiling of a new champion for us...”

Actually, passion could well be the name of the game for Team India.

“I can’t predict... Elan karne se jeet jate, to phir khelte nahin... We did very well in the World Twenty20 and, then, had a few days to switch off... Now, the players have to switch on again... I believe confidence has to be taken forward...

“Cricket is a team game and I won’t only be looking at one or two players to deliver... Remember, it’s a team effort which won us the World Twenty20...” Dhoni declared.

Nine of the 14 (Rohit Sharma joins the squad in Kochi) Indians featured in the World Twenty20.

Dhoni more than suggested that the specialists would have to work on their fielding. “It’s not about being a senior or a junior, it’s about being in form... Also, the players have to take the pressure off the team (with their fielding)...”

According to Dhoni, the wicket (which has grass) should be “good,” with the ball doing a few things under lights. Gilchrist didn’t express any alarms.

If Ponting is unavailable for Australia’s first ODI since the hattrick of World Cup wins, in April, the Indians also have worries. Harbhajan Singh has a “stiff neck” and Dinesh Karthik was hit on the left cheek while fielding.

The Australians, in fact, have to pick from 13 as new ball bowler Nathan Bracken is yet to report. “He’s home as his wife has just given birth to a son... We’re awaiting an update on his travel plans,” is what a member of the team management said.

Predictably, there won’t be even an inch of unoccupied space when the first match after our World Twenty20 triumph gets under way.


India (from): Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ramesh Powar, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Sreesanth

Australia (from): Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Brad Haddin, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hogg, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark, Brett Lee, Adam Voges

Umpires: Steve Bucknor and Suresh Shastri. TV: Amish Saheba

Match Referee: Chris Broad

Match starts: 2.30pm.

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