Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir, in Visakhapatnam, on Friday
Visakhapatnam: Playing the role of an ideal captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni tried to defuse the excitement, or “hype” in his own words, around Yuvraj Singh.
Yuvraj, India’s 2011 World Cup hero, is set to return to competitive cricket in Saturday’s T20 International against New Zealand, at the Dr YSR Reddy ACA-VDCA Stadium, here.
Speaking at the pre-match media conference, Dhoni said: “I feel we need to keep things as normal as possible... Don’t create a hype around him... As an individual, when you are out, and then make a comeback, you do a bit of planning. The whole world talks about it as if they are helping him out. In a way, it puts the burden on the individual.”
Reminding the tough battle Yuvraj fought against a rare germ cell cancer, Dhoni said: “It’s important to keep it as normal as possible... Not to let him think what has really happened in his life. He has fought through it...
“He is a strong character. As I said, he needs to turn up and just enjoy cricket. That’s what he has done from age group cricket till now.”
Dhoni, however, did not betray his emotions in letting everyone one know how much the team missed Yuvraj. “We missed him for a long time. He has gone through tough times… But the good thing is that he is enjoying it… Today, we had a soccer session, followed by a net session…
“He looks very joyful. We missed him for close to a year now… We are hoping that he comes back strong and enjoys the game. We just want him to turn up on the field and enjoy the game,” Dhoni said.
The return of Yuvraj, as also of Harbhajan Singh, into Team India’s scheme of things was expressed in a very straightforward manner by Dhoni. “See, it’s not about older or younger players… Everybody wants to represent the country and wants to do well. If you look at the positives these players will be really hungry to perform and be at their top level. They can cement their place (once again), not only in the T20 side but also in ODIs and Tests… It’s a platform for them to express themselves. So in a way, it’s a positive for us,” the captain said.
“You just have performers... Once you perform at the domestic level or in the IPL, you get into the side. The good thing is these players will be slightly more experienced than other players,” he added.
And how significant is this series in the build-up to the upcoming World T20? “Every game is important… It’s not about when you re playing. Every game has the same importance. We would like to start well… It will be an opportunity for players to get into the groove before going to the World T20,” Dhoni said.
Asked if experimentation with the team combination was on his mind, Dhoni said: “The best XI will get to play... There is nothing about team combination... It’s the same team that will go to the World T20... We are not looking to experiment and will stick to our best XI.”
On New Zealand as opponents, Dhoni said: “We are not thinking too much about the opposition... Of course there is a bit of planning involved... It’s important to stick to our strengths… We need to stick to our gameplan and our strengths, keep working on the areas that need to be worked upon… Like the death overs.”
Speaking about Visakhapatnam as a venue, where he got his first century — a 148 against Pakistan in April 2005 — Dhoni explained: “I never said it’s my favourite venue... My first big innings was here... I’ve some fond memories... So, it’s one of my favourite grounds.”
So is there a chance of another run fest on this wicket? “The wicket looks good… That means we will have something for the bowlers…
“It should come onto the bat nicely… We hope the batsmen can play nice strokes,” Dhoni said.