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We learnt a lot from the ODIs, says Dhoni

Johannesburg: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Tuesday said his young team has accepted the fact that Sachin Tendulkar is no longer available and they will have to “move on” and concentrate on the job at hand.

“With the last Test match we played in India, it is 100 per cent sure that Sachin won’t be available for any more international series. It was always good to have him, but now that he won’t be there, we have to concentrate on what he have. We have accepted that fact and moved on,” Dhoni said on the eve of the first Test here.

This is the first time since November 1996, that all four batting stalwarts of the last two decades – Sourav Ganguly, Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman – will be missing from the Indian line-up.

It has been a roller-coaster ride in the past few seasons for Indian cricket, with the ignominy of having lost 0-8 in Test matches in England and Australia. They have partially pulled it back with six back to-back Test match victories at home.

“Every series is a fresh start. There is no point bringing excess baggage. It is about getting used to conditions and offering what the team has. There are plenty of youngsters in this side, who will get exposure by playing competitive cricket at the Test level. So it’s a big positive for us,” Dhoni said.

Having already conceded the ODI series 0-2, there have also been question marks India’s preparations going into the two-Test series, against the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.

“At Benoni, we could have batted on the first day and made the opposition field on a wet outfield. But that would have been selfish of us because they also have a first class season going on. Nobody wanted to get injured, so it was good for both teams that the match was abandoned. We did practice on the centre wicket and got the most out of it,” said Dhoni.

About the disastrous ODI series, Dhoni cited the short duration being one of the factors for India not being able to make a comeback.

“In the ODI series too, we were confident. But in a couple games, we played lots of shots and we found the fielders more often than not. It was disappointing but when it’s a short series, you don’t get time to come back.

“But we learnt plenty from that series, what lengths to bowl and as batsmen what to leave. So overall, our preparation has been good and it is all about how individuals adapt to different scenarios now,” he added.

“The wicket here will certainly assist the fast bowlers initially. The ideal length anywhere is to bowl at the top of off-stump and the bowlers have picked it up now… So it will be very crucial to bowl well, especially with the new ball, as early wickets can put pressure on the middle-order,” said the India captain.

Dhoni didn’t reveal the playing XI although he hinted that two of his bowlers will play a very crucial role.

“This middle-order has done well in the domestic circuit back home and also in whatever international exposure they have got. It is a fresh challenge for them and they will gain immense experience about how to play Test cricket outside India,” he said.

Dhoni expects that veteran Zaheer Khan to guide the younger crop of pace bowlers, while leading the attack.

“Zaheer has plenty of experience and at the same time he will guide the younger bowlers. Ashwin’s role is also very crucial because he won’t get the same kind of assistance he gets back in the sub-continent.

“The way he bowls in the first innings will be different from the way he bowls in the second innings here,” Dhoni added.