India in Australia 2011-12 December 12, 2011

Lead-up to first Test is the key - Dhoni

ESPNcricinfo staff
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MS Dhoni, the India captain, has said how his team utilise their time in Australia in the lead-up to the first Test will determine the outcome of the series. "It depends on how we prepare ourselves during the 12 days before the Test match and how we adapt to the conditions," Dhoni said. "Most of the batsmen have played there before. We are hoping we will do well there."

India have been poor starters overseas of late and have lost the first Test of the series on their previous trips to Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and England. But Duncan Fletcher, the India coach, said an early arrival in Australia for some of his players coupled with two warm-up games should be sufficient for the team to acclimatise to conditions. "You hope that they do adapt during that period of time. Probably it is enough," Fletcher said in Chennai ahead of the team's departure to Australia.

Australia have struggled recently, but Dhoni said this was not necessarily India's best chance to win a Test series in Australia, and that he would rather work on his side's strengths and weaknesses than concentrate on the opposition's form. "Even last time [in 2007-08] we had a very good chance and we did really perform well. It is not that if the opposition is not doing well it will be a best chance for us. We have to play to the level of the kind of talent that we have got and not worry about such things. We are more concerned about what we need to work on and are not too worried about what kind of opposition we are playing.

"Some people think that the last Australian team was much better than the current Australian side. Some of the present players were not part of the 2008 side. To judge them is quite a difficult task. Anil Kumble was part of our side [then]. The spinners coming into the team now are not as experienced as Anil. It applies to the Australian team also. They had big players like Adam Gilchrist and others.

"[Because they are] missing big names in the present setup, some people think that this is our best chance. But we did well that time also and quite a few things happened in the series. Most of you watched that. We will try to keep such things away. We are a good side and we need to do well on the field."

Fletcher agreed with Dhoni about the need for India to focus on their own game but added that Australia had some good players who were currently out of form and India would do well to keep things that way.

Zaheer Khan, who is returning after a long injury lay-off, will be crucial if India are to put pressure on the Australia line-up and Fletcher said that he did not want to rush his premier fast bowler back. "From the reports that I get, Zaheer had come to Mumbai and bowled in the nets there and he looked impressive. I think it is very important to be careful; he looked to be in very good condition even when he came to England.

"He has got through two games [in the Ranji Trophy, for Mumbai]. It will be ideal preparation for him. We do not want to rush him back too quickly. The one three-day game there will be important for him before the first Test."

Fletcher was also upbeat about Ishant Sharma, who was among the players who departed early for Australia. "He has had a nice rest. He was totally free from injury when he finished the Test match in Mumbai [against West Indies]. He has gone out there fresh. It is important that they have little breaks between series. Everything that we have heard so far is that they are ready to go."

Though seamers Praveen Kumar and Varun Aaron will be missing the tour due to injury, Dhoni was optimistic about the chances of his bowling attack. "If you see the injury list, it is quite blank as of now. More often than not, [of the] the 15 or 16 who are selected [in the squad] everybody will be ready for selection [in the XI]. That takes a bit of pressure off and you need not worry about the playing XI that much as most of the players get their berths on merit.

"Apart from that, the batting line-up is quite the same. Bowling-wise, Zaheer is back. We have got Umesh Yadav who can bowl over 140kph. I think it looks like a good pack."

Dhoni said he was not worried about the fact that only two of his bowlers had played more than 15 Tests as it was more important to have in-form bowlers than experienced ones.

"R Ashwin has just made his debut in the series against West Indies while Harbhajan Singh has played in 98 Test matches and is one of the leading wicket-takers for India," Dhoni said. "Nobody knew what Ashwin can do. But he ended up winning the Man-of-the-Series in the Tests. This is something that Duncan said that we have to be careful about. Just because the big names are not there, it does not mean the bowling attack is weak. Even when Shane Warne or Glenn McGrath made their debut they started from zero wickets. You may be having a [potentially] great bowler, who may be just starting his career and playing the first few games."

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  • 5wombats on December 15, 2011, 22:51 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas; the problem wombats have with dustbowl is that it doesn't promote all forms of genius; genius of batsman who can handle pace and bounce early in the Test match, genius of bowler with ability to exploit such condition. Dustbowl only gives spin bowler a chance and only develops the batsman to resist spinner. This is not the full set of cricket skills. We think it is disrespectful of india captain who calls for spinning track from Day 1. This will not promote india cricket as world force - only an insular grouping which can deal only with its own condition. Maybe this is the way BCCI want to go? Maybe they say; "well, we make lots of money this way - why do we need Test Match/rest of the world"? If we "mock" dustbowl it is because dustbowl is a tragedy - a limitation which prevents growth of young skillful india fast bowler and young batsman learning about seam & bounce. To be world force india need players for ALL world conditions. You too could respect "cowpasture"!

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 15, 2011, 20:56 GMT

    @5wombats, I sure agree that fast tracks are completely missing in our country. That's a genuine issue that needs to be addressed. If you just try to back off for a while and take a note of my vision, you will understand that I'm talking of how the future NEEDS to be in India. Bilateral series in India should be played on spinning tracks while for practice on a day to day basis we need to have all kinds of tracks. Dravid used to face wet, hard cricket tennis balls thrown at him on concrete from several galleries higher in the stadium to address the issue of facing pace and bounce. India is such a vast country that the climate varies a lot from one part to the other. There should be no excuse for our administrators to not to look seriously into developing England like tracks in Dharamshala, Mohali and such Northern cities and towns. BUT if passionate fans like you don't know how to respect spinning tracks and mock at them as dustbowls, then the point of contention remains the same.

  • 5wombats on December 15, 2011, 19:47 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas - we've had coversations before - so I know you to be a level headed india fan. Look - all this stuff about "cowpastures" is clearly nonsense. If England only produce "doctored grassbowls" - then how can you explain the fact that England has also produced the currently best spin bowler in the world in all formats? Surely, according to india logic, this is impossible. And - we don't believe for one minute that india domestic set up gives players "green" pitches to play on. If this is true then why did india batsmen (except your hero...) fail so dismally last summer, and where are all these india bowlers that practice bowling on these green pitches? Answer - they aren't there, because the pitches you describe are not produced. And we never once said that seam bowlers were a "higher form of life" - so stop attributing me with things we never would say. We happen to think that Warne was a great genius with the ball & have said so many times here. Please publish.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 15, 2011, 14:45 GMT

    @5wombats, I would never say you know nothing. But you sure are assuming. The debate is purely contextual, the CONTEXT of a bilateral series between two countries. So, DON'T ASSUME other things about our DOMESTIC SETUP. India should continue to provide sporting tracks (as per Dhoni) also known as spinning tracks for bilateral series in India. That's the whole point. So, don't assume that that's what our players are going to practice on domestically. Our players will get to practice on underprepared homegrown grassbowls also in order to compete on grassbowls in other parts of the world. If you really think that fast bowlers and batsmen are the only higher forms of cricket life, then you sure are insular and exclusive, instead of being inclusive, in your definitions. Not good for cricket. Log off and think. My point of contention: IF spinning tracks are unsporting and will be mocked at as dustbowls, THEN fast tracks are unsporting and will be mocked at as grassbowls for cows. Simple!

  • heathrf1974 on December 15, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    The fitness of both sides will be crucial in this series. If Zaheer Khan can find his form quickly then India should win. If not the it could be tight. The batting of Aus will need to improve dramatically.

  • Meety on December 15, 2011, 5:45 GMT

    Early days - but India are labouring hard in the first warm up game AND Ishant has broken down! A bit of a slaughter really. @ganymede - you wish buddy!

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 15, 2011, 3:37 GMT

    @5wombats, I wouldn't say you know nothing. But you sure are assuming. The debate is purely contextual, the CONTEXT of a bilateral series between two countries. So, DON'T ASSUME other things about our DOMESTIC SETUP. India should continue to provide sporting tracks (as per Dhoni) also known as spinning tracks (as per Dhoni) for bilateral series. That's the whole point. So, don't assume that that's what our players are going to practice on domestically. Our players will get to practice on underprepared homegrown grassbowls also in order to compete on grassbowls in other parts of the world. If you really think that fast bowlers and batsmen are the only higher forms of cricket life, then you sure are insular and exclusive, instead of being inclusive, in your definitions. Not good for cricket. Log off and think. My point of contention: IF spinning tracks are unsporting and will be mocked at as dustbowls, THEN fast tracks are unsporting and will be mocked at as grassbowls for cows. Simple!

  • Full-Blooded-Wallop on December 14, 2011, 23:54 GMT

    India missing the world's best young fast bowler in Aaron and world's best swing master in praveen, also they are missing the very very talented spinner in rahul,and future greats in pujara,raina and mukund. So basically we are without our 6 star players and no-1 allrounder in world at present-Ravindra jadeja(who just hit a 314 in first class cricket) and almost all the westindies and english batsmen have struggled against his crafty bowling. But even without these 7 great players, we have enough firepower to demolish Australia. I don't believe in series prediction, but can predict few personal milestones==sehwag will hit a double and a triple ton, 3fifers for umesh yadav and 3 centuries each for dravid and sachin. GO...Can't wait for it to start.

  • ssenthil on December 14, 2011, 16:56 GMT

    @Naresh28, Exactly my Point to the people here crying for Irfan, who is not going to change the destiny of this Indian team like Zak can do. We will wait and watch how they are going to bowl if at all they get a chance, however they will get a chance to bowl in tomorrow's practice match anyway. I m least bothered about Wasim comments about Indian team. WI were 2-46 (Samuels, 8.1 ov), 2-25 (Samuels, 7.1 ov), 2-42 (Hyatt, 13.1 ov), 2-63 (Simmons, 9.3 ov) from 1st ODI to 4th ODI respectively and not to forgot India were 2-1 (Patel, 0.3 ov) in the same match as both openers were removed by Roach in just 3 balls. Meanwhile the batsman dismissed by him Avg 34.37 and 10.40 with Bat, is never a big threat when they were chasing. I know the Chennai pitch quite well, since the WC, IPL and even in CL it was tough to bat on early. Batsman has to spend a little time. You don't believe me? Pity me!!! Check with any1 from CI. We can talk about replacement when he break down not now, please...

  • psswain on December 14, 2011, 15:43 GMT

    Aus's so called best batsman after don is going through a rough patch of 2 yrs with avg around mere 26 without a three fig score...i'm unable to find any sign of gr8ness in it. Couple of weeks ago ian chappel wrote a long rubbish article in defence of it,but he adviced sachin to retire for the same reason while sachin avgd above 30 during tht period. IAN,LOOK AT THE MIRROR !!

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