MS Dhoni-led Indian side lost 0-4 against New Zealand in ODIs © Getty Images
By Chetan Narula
Auckland: Feb 5, 2014
Desperate to bring the Indian team’s faltering tour of New Zealand back on track, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni asked his players to dictate terms by capitalising crucial situations in the two-match Test series starting on Thursday.
India were hammered 0-4 in the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series which led to the team losing its numero uno ranking in the International Cricket Council (ICC) chart.
Dhoni revisited the team’s performance in the Test series in South Africa to motivate his squad.
“If we consider the last series we played, we had one bad session, two-and-a-half-hours of bad cricket. Compared to the cricket we played throughout the series, that was really good,” said Dhoni.
“We have not capitalised when we had crucial situations in the game. That is the only area of concern to some extent.
The batsmen batted really well, but just those couple of hours where we did not do well. We have seen in this format, it can have a big impact on the game.
“It is important that when we are in a situation where we can command authority or dictate terms, it is very important we go through that phase and keep building on it,” he added.
Dhoni said his team has got enough time to put the ODI disappointment behind and be ready for the two-Test series.
“We have had just enough time to get back into the groove. We had a practice game also. It is enough time, especially since we played five ODIs here. Most of the team remains unchanged.
“They have already had a look at the wickets, what they will be like, how they will play,” he said.
New Zealand have laid out a green wicket at the Eden Park for the first Test and coupled with the pace and bounce on offer here, it will be another stern test for the Indian team after their batsmen were bounced out in the ODI series.
“The plus point in Test matches is that you can pick and choose when you want to hit it and when you don’t,” said Dhoni, replying to a question on short-ball tactics.
“At times, the ODIs get dominated by how many runs the opposition have scored and how many you are chasing. We chase more often than not.
“If the opposition has scored 280 or 290 odd and we don’t get too many runs in the first ten, when they come in they have to play their strokes as the asking rate keeps rising if you keep leaving them. That is the only difference,” Dhoni added.
Dhoni said grass on the pitch alone cannot be an intimidating factor.
“More than the amount of grass, it is whether the grass is lively or not or the base of the wicket has moisture or not. These are the two things that push you to take a decision,” he said.
“We will see how it is looking, whether it has the green tinge which means it has a bit of moisture, and if the base of the wicket is soft which means it will assist the fast bowlers initially and as the game progresses, it will dry out and become harder and better for stroke-play,” he opined about the pitch, after having denied seeing the wicket yet.
Even the hosts will be worried as India’s seam attack isn’t that weak, especially on pitches that might be conducive for their bowling.
In South Africa, the fast bowling unit bowled longer spells than usual and very nearly scared the Proteas in the first Test at Johannesburg, before the match ended in a draw.
“The good thing is that their approach [in South Africa] was really fantastic. As a team, we like to give them short spells so that they are fresh thinking about the third or the fourth spell, if needed. We try to use them in short bursts.
But if the situation demands, they will have to go for long spells,” said Dhoni.
“So, in South Africa, I felt they did a very good job.
Even when we bowled too many overs, when they came for the last spell, they were still putting in a lot of effort. That is very important,” added the skipper.
Dhoni then went on to talk about his two senior-most bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, who will be leading the attack once again in this Test series.
“Zaheer not only brings motivation, but also new plans and helps the youngsters to execute them. He is a real help to the fast bowlers as he is someone who has played a lot outside the subcontinent. It is always good to have an experienced bowler in the side,” said Dhoni.
“More often than not we have used Ishant as a one-change bowler. That again is a very crucial slot. At times with the Kookaburra ball, you don’t get a lot of swing after 25-30 overs.
“It is important you keep hitting the same length, and try to get the batsmen out with his extra bounce. It will be crucial for him to keep it tight, keep bowling in the same areas, keep repeating the action, keep hitting the length we want him to, and build on pressure,” he added.
India lack experience in the batting department though.
Herein they are led by Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, with the latter in keen focus here at the start of this Test series.
“Pujara has been really consistent. He is more of a banker. He respects the bowlers, wants them to pitch in his areas, and gives himself plenty of time. The domestic exposure has really helped him. He loves to spend some time in the middle.
“It is not easy to tempt him, to push him. Definitely he is someone who reads the game well. That’s a big positive and he will only keep getting better and better,” the Indian captain signed off.