MS Dhoni (above) will captain India in the Tests Down Under, feels Sourav Ganguly © Getty Images
MS Dhoni (above) will captain India in the Tests Down Under, feels Sourav Ganguly © Getty Images

By Chetan Narula

Birmingham: Sep 6, 2014

Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly has said that India are peaking at the right time and are currently placed very well for the ICC World Cup 2015, where they will be looking to defend their 2011 title. India hadn’t won an One-Day International (ODI) series of particular importance since their wins against Australia and West Indies in the 2013-14 home season. They had lost to South Africa and New Zealand away, and had a tough outing in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh.

But the recently-concluded five-match ODI series in England has been an easy affair for them, given the hosts’ frailties in the 50-over format, as India posted a comprehensive 3-1 win. “Every win is important and winning is good for a young team,” said Ganguly, when asked if this series win has been beneficial from the World Cup’s preparation point of view.

“You can only prepare a team by winning matches. And it is a good win if you consider that they did not win any ODIs in either South Africa or New Zealand. India are placed quite well for the World Cup. They have played some good cricket here in England in the ODIs. And as long as they keep playing good cricket and keep winning, they will find the right combination for the World Cup,” he added.

England only managed to cross the 250-run mark for the first time in the fifth and final ODI at Leeds on Friday, which was a dead-rubber, and Ganguly felt Indian bowlers had been showing good signs. “I thought there were good signs about India’s bowling. Mohammed Shami bowled really well in this series. Bowling in the death-overs is something they will have to get better at and it is tough because almost every bowler gets hit in the death-overs nowadays. But let us not be too judgmental. India were outstanding with the ball in this series,” said Ganguly, who led India to the final of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

However, India faced some problems with their batting line-up. While Shikhar Dhawan got back to form only in the fourth ODI at Birmingham, Virat Kohli’s poor tour was converted into a wretched one. With Rohit Sharma being ruled out of the series earlier with a broken finger, Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina became heroes with some good knocks with the latter winning the man-of-the-series with his performances with both bat and ball as well as a scintillating show in the field.

“Virat Kohli is just going through a tough phase,” opined Ganguly. “And therefore it becomes vital for someone like Suresh Raina to score runs in the middle order. He has done it consistently and it must have helped him to get some confidence back, because the Australian tour will be tough. It is not easy to score runs there, especially against the quick-bowlers. Not to mention he has lifted the team with his fielding energy, which is very important as well.”

Talking about the batting order, the Rahane-Rohit puzzle in particular, Ganguly added, “I think we should give it a bit more time. Let us not be too eager to say okay this should be the batting order after just a few matches. They have five matches against West Indies at home and then they have a big tri-series coming up in Australia, also involving England. They are experimenting and looking at different combinations, and they will eventually find out who is the right man to open the innings for them in the World Cup.”

Going back to the Test series, which India lost 1-3, this ODI series win has salvaged the tour for the visitors and made sure that it didn’t follow the same script as in 2011, when they were beaten hapless in both Tests and ODIs. Many team members have credited the new team management for the fine job during the ODIs, but the former skipper was a bit apprehensive about it.

“Looking from the outside, it is very tough to judge what’s happening in the dressing room. Is it possible for someone to come in like this and make such a big difference or impact immediately? I don’t know,” said Ganguly. “And then there are other considerations as well. If we have to judge Ravi Shastri in this new role then he has to be given a bit more time. He has to stay in this position for a bit longer,” the former skipper insisted.

Even as things seem hunky-dory in the ODI arena, asked whether India’s Test defeat could be swept under the carpet and Dhoni would survive as Test skipper, Ganguly said, “I see that happening till the World Cup. Dhoni is definitely going to Australia as the Test captain. For the time being, I think it is also the right move. But after the World Cup we will have to see,” he signed off.