Indian captain holds cards close to his chest, refuses to give out much on team composition for next match
India must have believed Christmas had come early, as England gifted wickets away on a platter to subside to a 90-run drubbing in the Group A clash between the two teams in the ICC World Twenty20 2012 at the R Premadasa Stadium on Sunday night.
Chasing India’s 170 for 4, England collapsed to 80 all out as Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla, both on their comeback to international cricket, finished with combined figures of 6 for 25 from eight overs of quality spin.
“We do have a problem of plenty, yes,” Dhoni acknowledged after India registered its biggest T20I win, by 90 runs, with a revamped XI that included five specialist bowlers. “But I can assure you, a problem of plenty is better than not having that one guy. Our performance today was good. We were a little bit better today than in the game against Afghanistan. But bigger teams await us and we need to be consistent. In every match, we have to be at our best. Hopefully, we will do in the next three matches in the Super Eights.” India will continue to remain in Colombo, and face Australia, Pakistan [or Bangladesh] and South Africa in the second phase.
Harbhajan, in his first game for India since August 2011, ended up for 4 for 12, the best figures by an Indian in T20Is, to win the man of the match award. “Harbhajan bowled well,” said Dhoni. “Especially when it came to his length, he didn’t bowl short. He invited the batsmen to drive by pitching the ball up. He made good use of variations, plus his mindset was very aggressive. He wasn’t particular about where he wanted fielders, like he normally is; he was very focussed and he really wanted to do well. It’s a very big positive for us because if we are playing one batsman short, he is someone who can slog down the order. He is a very good option for us.”
Dhoni was asked about the possibility of Harbhajan and R Ashwin playing together at some stage in this competition. “I don’t know who will play, frankly,” he replied. “But I am quite happy with the problem of plenty. The selection will depend on the wicket. If it’s a fresh wicket and a hard-rolled wicket, the spinners may not be that effective. And it will be a difficult decision which bowler to drop to play the seventh batsman. The middle order has done well and the two openers we have are the best openers we have, who can win matches on their own. Gautam (Gambhir) did really well in this particular game. It will be a difficult decision but we will have to see what is best for the side and accordingly decide.”
India left out Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Ashwin for Sunday’s game, and Dhoni said the injury Sehwag had sustained during nets on Friday had played no role in his absence. “It had nothing to do with injury. We requested Ashwin, Zaheer and Viru if they could rest and they all said yes.”
Dhoni has backed Rohit Sharma hugely, particularly when the batsman was going through a lean patch. Rohit repaid the faith with a stylish half-century, his first international fifty in eight innings. “I personally rate him very highly,” Dhoni said. “He is someone who can play all strokes right from the very start. Especially in this format, he is one of our most successful batsmen along with Suresh Raina. He is someone who has been quite consistent when it comes to the T20 format.
“He can play in different gears. If needed, he can accelerate, and if needed, he can play the big strokes, plus he runs well between the wickets. Our strength is to play the big shots, which means wickets in hand are very crucial for us. The first ten overs are critical; if we don’t lose too many wickets and we are 70 to 75 runs, then that is the ideal platform for the batsmen coming in to play the big shots. Rohit is taking up the responsibility really well.”