| Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in Hyderabad, on Friday. (PTI) |
Hyderabad: You may like or dislike Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but you simply can’t afford to ignore him.
Bombarded with criticism for India’s poor performances in the longer version lately, Dhoni’s scintillating 224 at the Chepauk not just played a significant role in giving India a 1-0 lead over Australia in the four-match series, but has also silenced his detractors.
It augurs wonderfully well for a team if their captain leads from the front, like a true leader. And to complement that, the other players in the team played their role perfectly. That then keeps the team in fine fettle going into the second Test, beginning on Saturday, at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, here.
While Dhoni’s bat has already battered the Aussies, the visitors suffered a fresh setback on Friday when wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade suffered a fractured cheek after taking a hit at the nets.
A website quoted the Australia team doctor, Peter Brukner, as saying: “Matthew Wade copped a knock to the cheek while facing throw downs in the nets this afternoon but batted on during training.
“We sent Wade off for a precautionary scan and he has a minor fracture, but he has subsequently been cleared to play provided there is no excessive bruising and swelling overnight.”
If Wade misses the match, Phil Hughes may have to keep and Usman Khwaja is likely to come into the side. There’s no back-up ’keeper in the squad.
The statement that Dhoni made with the bat in Chennai could certainly go on to have a serious impact in the remainder of the series. Of course, there are still three Tests to go and it won’t be wise to write the Australians off on the basis of just one result.
However, an in-form Dhoni is always a threat, irrespective of the bowling attack and the nature of the wicket. Dhoni in full flow commands respect from all bowlers, no matter how gifted or intimidating they might be.
Australia, too, consist of the David Warners and the Shane Watsons, who are capable of knocking the wind out of their rivals’ sails. But as the conditions at the Chepauk suggested, they still appear soft targets before disciplined and accurate spin bowling on turning tracks.
Given another dry pitch on offer here, the spinners are likely to rule the roost as the game progresses, something that would certainly be music to the ears of Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja.
Hyderabad is on high alert after the recent bomb blasts that rocked the city. Clarke, too, would definitely be on high alert as a slip up in the second Test would make things more difficult for his side and a comeback in the four-match series would then be even tougher.
Clarke’s responsibility as a batsman gets doubled now that the frailties of his team’s batting line-up against spin have been exposed. Moises Henriques, though, looks to be an able ally for Clarke, considering the application and determination with which he batted in the previous rubber.
On the bowling front, it’s the pacers — Peter Siddle and James Pattinson — who need to shoulder the bulk of the workload in order to provide Australia with chances of a comeback.
Precisely, Australia’s tweakers are their headache. The visitors had pinned hopes on Nathan Lyon, who as of now has been far from impressive. Australia do have another spin option in Xavier Doherty. But they seem to be in a little bit of dilemma over drafting in the left-armer as the second spinner. If they do, Mitchell Starc may have to sit out.
For India though there aren’t many reasons, barring the opening problem, to worry. It’s purely the team management’s call whether to tinker with the winning combination or give Murali Vijay another chance to get some useful runs under his belt. Virender Sehwag, as of now, looks safe. It’s high-time he makes some runs though.
India (likely): Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay, Chesteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma
Match starts: 9.30am