|Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in Mumbai, on Sunday
Mumbai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni feels playing in alien conditions, and that too without Sachin Tendulkar, will be a big challenge for his side but the Team India captain is hopeful that playing the ODIs first will help the team ahead of the Test series against South Africa.
The following are excerpts
First series after Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement
Well, there is always a start... When Paaji (Sachin) played his first Test match that was also his first… So I think what’s fairly important is that they have a good amount of exposure outside India even though it’s through ODIs… That always helps you adjust to the pace and bounce of the wicket. When you go into a new place how quickly you adjust is important… So I think it will be a new challenge for all of them, and at the same time, a learning curve. It’s the first time that they will be going there and they will learn a lot in the series.
The No. 4 position
If possible, we will omit the No. 4 position... One, two, three, five, six, seven and then we’ll play till 12. But again, it’s not about one individual. Whoever bats at that position, don’t put pressure on that individual saying he is replacing Sachin Tendulkar. There is no replacing anyone. He brings his own character into the side… As of now, we haven’t decided as to who is going to bat at No. 4. There is hardly any break for us to decide who will bat at No. 4. But again, every slot, especially when talking about Test cricket is an important slot. The top-two, No. 3, No. 4, they have their own importance.
The inexperienced batting line-up
There is a one thing for sure… If you don’t perform and you’re part of the team whether it’s you’re first Test or you’ve played 50 Test matches, criticism goes hand in hand… So that’s something you can’t really get away from. If you don’t perform you will be criticised. I think they need to keep in mind what’s really in their hand and prepare accordingly for the Test and ODI series. Also, concentrate on what little things they need to do so that they’re successful. I think it’s all about that. Good exposure...
On the reserve opener issue
Well if you see Gautam (Gambhir) is definitely our third opener. That’s what we are considering… As of now, (Murali) Vijay and Shikhar have done really well for us. So third opener is Gautam.
[Dhoni spoke about Gambhir in the overall context. “I was never asked if he is part of the team,” the Team India captain clarified later.]
The South African pace battery
Whenever we tour abroad we are asked this same question. I don’t have a new answer, my answer will be the same... As far as the India-South Africa series is concerned, both teams are well positioned… In ODIs we have done well and they have done well in Tests, so I think it will be a good contest because the ODIs are before the Tests… Playing the ODIs first will be an advantage… It will give us a little bit of time to adjust. Overall I think it will be an exciting series and there are exciting players in both sides… It looks like it will be an interesting series.
The challenge of playing in alien conditions
I think it is always a challenge when you go and play abroad. You are competing against the home team and they know the conditions well. Their fast bowlers always know which length to bowl and also the areas in which they need to bowl. I feel the batsmen will have to quickly adjust to the bounce, see the deliveries which they can leave… So I think it will be a key factor… But, of course, starting with the ODIs will always be helpful...
Handling the pressure
Whenever the Indian team goes abroad, there is always talk about pressure. Even if we play against Ireland, it is always said that they are the underdogs and you are feeling some pressure because of it. Pressure goes hand in hand with the Indian cricket team and it doesn’t matter whether you are playing in India or abroad.
If India’s death bowling is a concern
If you look at our Champions Trophy performance and then compare the death bowling, you will see a completely different scenario. Again if you are taking about average stats, it is ideal when you say that the Indian bowlers have given these many runs in the last 10 overs and Australian bowlers have given these many runs in the last 10 overs, then it becomes more realistic. Different conditions will have different stats but we have to see there will be pace and bounce on offer for the fast bowlers.
The composition of the side
Well it’s something that we have to go there and decide. We have to see the strength of our batting line-up. At the same time whether four bowlers are good enough to get the opposition out. It’s something that we have to consider... In the last Test match also we played with four bowlers and Rohit was the one who batted at No. 6. We will weigh how it is and then decide as to whether 3-1 combination is good enough or we have to play with 3-2.
Ravichandran Ashwin not having played many Tests abroad
Well it’s very important we start making them play (abroad)… Otherwise this question will be asked five years later as well. At the same time, they don’t have much experience outside India. Everybody starts from scratch, even the greatest of cricketers... He may turn out to be brilliant outside India…
On how to deal with an inconsistent Ishant Sharma
It is a very difficult question. I don’t want to answer it… I will keep it a secret, and hopefully, he will do well.
On how he selects the players
All of us have opinions… May be there are a few individuals who are more God gifted than some others... It’s not for us to judge whether the individual is good or not. … if somebody is doing well in the domestic circuit and is consistent, he should be given an opportunity. It’s not for us to decide whether he is good enough or not. It’s up to him (Mohammed Shami) when we give him the opportunity.