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MS Dhoni says India will play with 5 bowlers in 5th Test at The Oval

MS Dhoni © Getty Images
MS Dhoni took a day off from practice ahead of fifth Test at The Oval © Getty Images

By Chetan Narula

London: Aug 14, 2014

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has once again reiterated that he will not deviate from his strategy of playing five bowlers ahead of the fifth and final cricket Test against England starting tomorrow.

With hero of the Lord’s Test match Ishant Sharma already declared fit, the India captain has decided to stick to his five-bowler theory which incidentally didn’t work in the last Test match at the Old Trafford.

“Yes we will be playing five bowlers,” Dhoni declared on the eve of the Test as India look to avoid another overseas series-loss having already conceded a 2-1 lead in Manchester.

The skipper outlined that Bhuvneshwar Kumar is experiencing some niggling issues but is expected to be fit in time for the start of the match. ”He has managed the workload quite well so far. He has a few niggles here and there but at the most he is always close to 80 percent fit. We shouldn’t forget the amount of bowling he has done, and also the batting and fielding. So it is good that he is shaping up well. But he is also someone who we cannot afford to rest at this point in the series,” Dhoni said at the pre-match press conference today.

As has been the case, Dhoni again harped about how the “process” was more important than the “result”. ”This match is very important but the process is still more important than the result, because it puts less pressure on the team. It is an important Test but at the same time, it is still about breaking up of the sessions. If you win more sessions than the opposition, then the result should come out in your favour,” Dhoni explained.

India have had an uneven practice build-up to this Test match. On Wednesday, Dhoni took an off-day, spending time away from the ground, as the rest of the team practised. Today, a sudden rain-shower forced the Indian team to remain confined to indoor practice facility.

“I felt like taking a personal day and so I took it. We have had enough team-building exercises in the three days after the last match and I was with the team then. This one day will not affect us,” he said. ”We have spoken about it [the collapse at Old Trafford],” he added.

“We have addressed that and it was not just that game. In the games before that also, we have lost some wickets in very short span of time. It is not really about addressing it but more about soaking it up, learning from the last game and make sure that we don’t repeat those mistakes.”

India will be hoping that their batsmen turn up in this game and make a difference, particularly Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. The visitors also have to address the issue of their openers not able to string together a 50-run partnership for quite some time now.

“An extra middle-order batsman is an improbability at this point because we have played in most of the matches with five bowlers,” Dhoni said when asked if Pujara could be made to open with Murali Vijay.

“He [Pujara] hasn’t got much opportunity [to open], so all of a sudden to come up with an application like that in a big game will have its own consequences.”

“The only big factor in not having big opening partnerships is that you expose the number three batsman and irrespective of whether number one or two gets out, Pujara has to face that pressure. Pujara is always batting close to the third, fourth or fifth over. So he gets more pressure to handle but he is also getting more chances of facing the challenges in such conditions. It will only improve him,” Dhoni had encouraging words for the No 3 batsman.

Talking about his star batsman, Kohli, Dhoni gave a long explanation about the captain-in-waiting’s lean patch. ”It is important for him to remain positive. If he can score runs in Australia or South Africa, there’s no reason why he can’t score runs in English conditions. You need to assess what you are doing differently or what bowlers are making you do differently. Virat is batting well not with the desired amount of runs,” said the skipper.

“But he [Virat] has been middling the ball well in the nets and we have seen glimpses of that in the few Test innings that he has played here. He started off well but got a good delivery and got out. As I said earlier, it is something that he has to go through. Sometimes it is good to have games in between in terms of getting some practice. But if you are playing from January continuously, then that one game in the middle wouldn’t have that much impact. So, he needs to back himself,” he added.

Last but not the least, it was pointed out that the match begins on Independence Day, August 15, which would perhaps be an additional source of motivation for the team.

“When you are representing your country, it is motivation enough. It doesn’t have to be the Independence or Republic day. It is a big and important day for us [the country]. At the same time, we want to be thinking about the Test match more than anything else,” Dhoni signed off.

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