The Telegraph
Friday , January 24 , 2014
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Must-win tie for India

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Calcutta/Auckland: The tour to New Zealand is not really turning out the way India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had hoped for. Expecting it to serve as a rehearsal tour for the 2015 World Cup, Dhoni had wanted his young team to get used to the conditions and had wanted to play with a settled line-up, rather than experimenting.

But, with 0-2 down in the five-match ODI series, the third match at Auckland will be a do-or-die test for the team. They have already lost their No. 1 status in ODIs following defeats in Napier and Hamilton.

They need to win in Auckland to keep the series alive.

After the consecutive defeats, the usually cool captain had hinted on Wednesday that India might have to make a few changes in the way they were playing. He had also said that the openers needed to make their stay at the crease longer, and make that time count in terms of runs so that the middle order batsmen could play more freely.

Whatever have been the discussions in the dressing room, the Indian think tank is obviously worried. The last ODI series abroad, in South Africa, too had not gone in India’s favour. They lost two of the three matches, with the third being abandoned due to rain.

As Dhoni had himself acknowledged, the Indian batting has not been up to expectations in New Zealand. He, however, maintained that the bowlers have done their job.

After the loss at Hamilton, he had said: “There will always be pressure on the bowlers because you are always going to have a batting heavy side and the new ODI rule changes it has really affected us. More often than not we are seeing high run chases, over 280 at least most of the game we have played.

“But our death bowling has improved a lot if we compare it to what was happening maybe six months back. What you are seeing close to 300 runs, you may see it as slightly expensive, but if we do not bowl as well as we are bowling in the last few overs, it may go in excess of 340. That puts some serious pressure on the batsmen. We have seen improvement, but there is still scope for improvement.”

He obviously knows the strengths and weaknesses of his bowlers better than anyone else. And it is time India got used to the change in ODI rules and have to adapt. Specially with the 2015 World Cup coming up, Indian bowlers have to get used to bowling with the new field restrictions.

Dhoni added: “There is still scope for improvement. We cannot give easy boundaries, off something like a wide ball or something on the pads that goes through short fine for a boundary… Stuff like that really adds on. Especially the first ball of the over or the sixth ball of the over, if you don’t concede boundaries in those two, it really helps. That is one area where we are conceding quite a few runs — the first ball or the last ball of the over. Either we are not starting well or we are not finishing that particular over well.”

Of the 61 boundaries India conceded in Napier and Hamilton, 20 came off the first and last deliveries of overs. That may not really be alarming, but Dhoni surely has a point.

Match starts: 6.30am IST (Saturday)