The Indian captain said South Africa couldn't be taken lightly in spite of its recent losses
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a pragmatic individual who shows equanimity in victory and defeat, and who has managed to retain his poise and sanity despite occupying the hottest seat in world cricket. India’s captain is disarmingly honest and takes nothing for granted. He knows his team is in the enviable position of playing the last match of the Super Eights of the ICC World Twenty20 2012, against South Africa, and therefore will know precisely what the equation is with a semi-final spot on the line. At the same time, he knows that that doesn’t necessarily count for anything.
“Yes, it’s the last match of the Super Eights, it could also turn out to be our last match of the tournament,” said Dhoni. “We will see what the situation is, what we need to do. Of course, it will be important to win. But if there is an equation about margins, it will be tricky. It will also depend on how the wicket plays on that day. We will have to wait and watch, we still have a lot of time left.
“Our strategy will depend a fair bit on what happens in the previous match (between Australia and Pakistan), what the result of that match is,” he said. “There is no point making a strategy now because it is possible that we might not require the strategy we come up with now.”
South Africa’s record against quality spin meant the question of including Harbhajan Singh in the playing XI was bound to arise. “As I said, we have to see how the wicket behaves,” said Dhoni. “We have a bit of a liberty because the first match starts at 3.30 pm. We can watch the match on TV and see if it is turning or not because all teams have good spinners. That will have an impact on the playing XI we decide to put out.”
South Africa has looked quite ordinary in this competition, especially with the bat, but Dhoni said that taking them lightly would be fraught with danger. “They are a very good side,” he said. “Their bowling line-up looks a very complete one with quality fast bowlers, Jacques Kallis, a few spinners. They also have batsmen who can really score runs at a good pace right from AB (de Villiers) to Kallis to (Hashim) Amla and JP Duminy.
“But in this format, you have to click as a team or have someone like Chris Gayle who can win games on his own. But I reiterate, they are a really good side, they have got the balance, they have got the talent.”
Dhoni said that momentum wasn’t a huge deal, especially in a Twenty20 tournament. “In this tournament, if you look at many teams, there has been a comfortable win followed by a bad defeat. You have to take it day by day. Of course, you have to get a bad defeat out of your system but you can’t remove it totally because you get to learn a lot from matches, and especially defeats. Australia has been very consistent.”
Dhoni has already led India to the ICC World Twenty20 and the ICC Cricket World Cup titles. Someone asked him if he ever believed he was three wins away from completing a rare treble. “I have always said I like to live in the present,” he replied, characteristically grounded. “Winning the World Cup is a long way away because our first priority is to qualify for the next phase, for which we must win the next game. We should not look too far ahead. After that, it’s lottery cricket in the knockout stages. If someone bats well or bowls well, if you have the lottery ticket, then you can win.”