The Telegraph
Thursday , March 10 , 2011
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You’ll soon see a different Harbhajan, says Dhoni

New Delhi: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Wednesday gave a guarded vote of confidence to the team’s premier spinner, Harbhajan Singh, after the off-spinner failed to get a wicket against the Netherlands, duplicating his inability to pick up a scalp in the previous match against Ireland.

“I think he reacts to aggressive cricket in a different way. If the opposition is not playing aggressive cricket, may be he also lays down and doesn’t play that type of aggressive cricket (expected of him),” Dhoni said at the post-match media conference when asked if he expected more aggression and if he was happy with the off-spinner’s intensity.

“It won’t be the case as soon as you are playing some of the bigger sides who will look to go after him. I think as the tournament heats up, you will see a different Harbhajan Singh. May be a strong side or better opposition, you will see the best of Harbhajan coming up,” he said.

The following are excerpts

On whether he is happy with the manner in which the last two wins were achieved

Winning is important. It is not a bad win. When you see the scorecard, it says India won by five wickets. I think it is a big positive. Of course, there was pressure when we were 100 for four. That is an area of concern. It is a good experience because you don’t want your middle-order or your lower middle-order to be exposed all of a sudden against stronger sides.

On Piyush Chawla

I think he was bowling more freely today. It was one of the most important games for him. He had good start in the warm-up game and a decent game after that. Piyush was under pressure after the last couple of games. And I felt Piyush needed this game more than Ashwin.

The part-time spinners bowling better than specialists

Whatever happens, you cannot drop the spinners and say we will play extra batsmen. I thought over a period of time, our spinners have bowled well. The opposition is happy to just block Harbhajan Singh out and make it tough for him to get wickets. We cannot have silly point and short leg that are needed for him. I don’t want to have a forward short-leg in the group stage because I don’t want a player to get injured. If he’s bowling well, they are going after Yuvraj and that is probably why he is getting wickets. You have to hunt in packs and that is what is important.

Ashish Nehra bowling just one over with the new ball

There was nothing in the track for the fast bowlers. The ball was coming on nicely to the bat and the Dutch are quite used to playing seam-up bowlers and not exposed that much to quality spin bowling..

On whether there would be more experiments with the team composition

We have not really experimented. We have been trying a few things but not to the extent where we were unsure of what would happen. We wanted to try something in these two games and we did. We are playing against two of the better sides (South Africa and the West Indies) in the last two games of the league. It is important to gain momentum and everyone should perform, the batsmen, the bowlers. And if we can improve our fielding, that will be good. You may have a bad day or one individual may have a brilliant day for the team to be out of the tournament. You have to be at your best in that part of the tournament. We are still supposed to give Ravichandran Ashwin a chance. He deserves a place and will feature in one of the matches that is coming up.

The new ball bowlers not getting the initial breakthrough most of the time

I think it is important to get a wicket in the initial overs because we have seen that in the sub-continent, it is the only way in which you can stop the opposition from scoring at a brisk pace. We have not been able to do that in a few games but it doesn’t mean that we can’t do that. I think we have got a few talented bowlers who can swing the ball. And when there is no swing, they can bowl a tight line and get the batsmen out.

Yuvraj Singh’s form

He has turned the tables. I remember some press conferences back, the questions used to be very different. I always believed he is a big match player and performs well in the big tournaments and in the highly-rated bilateral series. I am very pleased withhim.

If he thought India were in a spot of bother at 99 for four

If you are 100 for four against any side, you are under a bit of pressure. More so, if the pitch is slow and low and you are expected to win easily. It was a good outing.

The manner in which the top-order gifted their wickets

When you look to do something different — and wanted to take the run rate up — against the so-called weaker sides, you want to make as many runs as possible off the new ball. You can lose wickets when batsmen play aggressive shots.

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