India in Australia 2015-16 January 11, 2016

India no longer producing readymade talent - Dhoni

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Still looking for seaming allrounder - Dhoni

Indian domestic cricket is not throwing up the finished product as it used to previously, MS Dhoni has said. On the eve of India's five-ODI series against Australia, Dhoni was thankful he could use this time to groom the newcomers, but the noises were not very optimistic.

A case in point was his mention of the absence of a seaming allrounder in the squad, and then another that there was no point just making up numbers until a really good one was found. Some might wonder if Rishi Dhawan, the allrounder who opens the bowling for Himachal Pradesh and batted at No. 4 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, needs to carry a placard to the nets to be spotted. Others might say Dhoni knows a thing or three about spotting talent, and that he has given Rishi chances in both the warm-up games.

It is a time of transition for Indian limited-overs cricket. Dhoni is himself nearing the end. Yuvraj Singh is not there. Suresh Raina has been dropped. There are only five established specialist batsmen in the squad. The lower middle order and the lack of a seaming allrounder remain problems. In analysing the Australian team, Dhoni gave away what he thought India were missing.

"If you see what makes life easy for an international team is the kind of domestic cricket… if you see the Australian first-class cricket, it is very good, which means the players who come up from the ranks of domestic cricket or first-class cricket have already got good exposure of playing cricketers who have played international cricket or are playing international cricket at that point of time. I feel that way Australian cricket is blessed."

The corollary came through when Dhoni was asked about how big a loss Mohammed Shami was, and if his replacement Barinder Sran was ready for international cricket. Sran has played only eight List A games, and not even a handful in the IPL. After expectedly praising Shami, Dhoni said: "As far as the newcomers are concerned, we will definitely feature them and see where they stand. Also we have to slightly get ahead of time. If you see Indian cricket, more often than not, we are used to getting the complete product. Right from the late '80s onwards we have got cricketers who were ready to play international cricket. Once they made their debut they were there for like 10 to 15 years.

"I think the trend is changing slowly. Even if you see the batsmen nowadays, they have been part of the side for quite some time and we have had to groom them. I feel the same applies to the bowlers. We may not have the luxury of just picking up the complete product to come into international cricket and start delivering from the very first game. It is important to identify talent and at the same time give them games quite quickly so that they get that exposure of international cricket. And we also see get to see how they handle pressure and the areas where they need to improve."

Rishi's presence was ignored when Dhoni was asked for a possible combination. "Most likely it will be three-two [quicks-spinners]," he said. "Because we don't really have a seaming allrounder so most likely it will be a three-two combination. Who are the players, we will wait and watch." That most likely means R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, and a possible debut for Barinder Sran.

Australia, on the other hand, have announced their XI, and it includes five quick bowlers. Dhoni again felt they could do so because they had seaming allrounders. "It's not only about the pitch," Dhoni said. "That is their strength. When they come to the Test series in India, they actually went in with four proper fast bowlers in the first game. Their strength is fast bowling so no good reason why they will go in with two spinners. One part-time spinner is enough for them. Also not to forget they have got seaming allrounders. We don't really have… we are still looking for a seaming allrounder that can fit in that slot. Even when we are looking to play with four-fast-bowlers-and-a-spinner combination. Till we don't find a really good one, there is no point playing somebody for the sake of it."

Another problem Dhoni has is that he wants a flexible batting order, but he can't really play around with the top four. When Dhoni himself started out, he would bat anywhere between three and six. That was one of his main arguments against a fixed line-up. That you have batsmen ready to go out at any position in the batting order provided the number of overs left calls for their game. Yet the highest he can send a newcomer in is No. 5, which again leaves him playing at No. 6.

"Yes I admit a lot of batsmen find it very difficult to do it [move up and down the order] but at the end of the day if everyone becomes very rigid with their batting order it becomes very difficult for the team," Dhoni said. "If you see the success of the Indian team, a lot of it is down to batsmen who could bat at different numbers. If you see history, we have had batsmen who open in first-class but bat at 3 for us. They used to bat 4 or 5 for their first-class team but they end up being openers for the international side. That flexibility has to be there, and that adaptability has to be there.

"I feel it's very important that youngsters who get a chance get a good opportunity to bat. That's why I have always been in favour of giving the youngsters a chance to bat at 5 because that's the only place I have. That's the only place I can trade. If they consistently bat at 6, on a very good day they will score 30-odd runs. On a bad day they will score 10 runs. After 15 games, the media will be like, 'He averages only 15, get him out of the side.'"

Now is the time, though, to throw all these youngsters into the deep end, for better or for worse, whether they are the finished article or not. For the selectors have not left Dhoni many options. Either Gurkeerat Singh or Manish Pandey will get a taste of what it is like. Sran, and even Rishi, might need to be looked at at some point in the series. When Dhoni spoke glowingly of Australian domestic cricket, he also said the ability to handle pressure mattered more than the talent. He will hope that the raw youngsters he has been given have that quality.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • TrueF on January 13, 2016, 17:07 GMT

    If a person is not capable, he will blame others for his failures. India has never ran out of talent, you can check India's A team's performances. Problem is management is not growing the talent or not giving them enough opportunities at international level.

  • legstumpgoogly on January 13, 2016, 9:30 GMT

    T20 killed cricket. India will be the first to cop the bullet because of their obsession with it.

  • CricketingStargazer on January 13, 2016, 8:57 GMT

    This is becoming a worldwide problem. In the past, India & the West Indies in particular had very strong domestic First Class cricket. Now, all round the world, even in the countries that retain a good First Class structure, the level is trending down because the very best players no longer play First Class cricket. In Australia the situation is partially mitigated because the Grade cricket is so strong, but Caribbean and Indian cricket are losing these roots and the growth of T20 as a money-maker to give players financial security is reducing the incentives for playing the First Class game still further. And England is the only country in the world where players can get experience of playing in front of substantial crowds before the jump to the international game (for Division 1 games attendances tend to be 1000-2000 with 5000+ not unknown for big matches). Keeping the First Class game alive as a feeder for Tests is getting to be a real issue everywhere, even in England.

  • YesKayR on January 13, 2016, 4:39 GMT

    Mistake we made when we were performing well (2003 to mid 2011) - we ignored our weaknesses. That is poor mgmt. Our strength was batting, weakness was bowling. another factor we ignored was building up bench strength. Once our batting started failing from eng 2011 tour , we started getting thrashed. BCCI has to take big chunk of the blame for not building up the bench strength. Pre Eng tour 2011, ourbatting bailed us out many times from difficult situations. At other times scored enuf to put pressure on rivals and made our bowling look good. Hope the top bosses come up with some plan. To be true, no one can replace or have the same impact Dhoni the wk batsman (of his prime).. we are already feeling the pinch, when his abilities have waned. No replacements found for him. No one who cud replace Kumble, Laxman, Zaheer Khan. Who to be faulted.. BCCI, the system, players themselves, Physios, coaches?

  • MeTalHeD69 on January 13, 2016, 4:25 GMT

    @SRAY23 and not just outside of India anymore. They lost to SA in their previous ODI series. Their obsession with dusty pitches is killing their cricket. The only other country that resembles India's pitches AND lack of decent fast bowlers is West Indies.

    They just don't make batsmen and fast bowler friendly wickets. They aren't developing talent and rely on the glory of their older players (think Chris Gayle). India is going the same way because they should have made better pitches years ago for upcoming players to get some experience on but they haven't. They look for quick victories instead of long term gains. It is why teams like Aus and SA have better overall results.

  • Cricinfouser on January 13, 2016, 2:55 GMT

    India has a fixation with spin bowlers and dust bowl pitches. They are afraid to prepare fast green pitches/wickets for fear that visiting teams will beat them at home. The truth is that if green wickets are prepared their fast bowlers will develop and also their batsmen will better be able to bat against fast bowling. In the beginning they will lose some matches but paying to learn and to be competitive has a price. Flat tracks and dust bowls are not the way to go....

  • sray23 on January 13, 2016, 0:56 GMT

    These comments are just preparing excuses for defeat. If a captain thinks like that before the first game of the series, there is no point keeping him. Dhoni needs to be shown the door. People gush about his World T20, World Cup and Champions trophy, but they never look at what a poor ODI side India have been outside the subcontinent under Dhoni. After around 2008, India have completely lost the plot outside Asia in ODIs losing most if not ALL series against teams like Eng, SA, Aus, NZ. And they only did well in 2013 CT and 2015 WC was because after around 2011, the ICC re-designed the draw and prepared flat pitches for world tournaments to give major teams (ESP India) an easy run to the semis - to protect broadcaster revenue. Apart from that, in any bilateral series where the home team can prepare seaming tracks, India have been all at sea. So I think it is time to stop over-hyping Dhoni and if he has nothing more to offer, he needs to go.

  • Nampally on January 12, 2016, 13:56 GMT

    Is Sran not a "Ready made" talent? He took 3 wkts out of 5 when the so called the best spinners- Ashwin & Jadeja, looked so ordinary. Sran has played very few first class matches to prove that he is just a "Raw" talent. Dhoni needs to put greater faith in his bowlers. India does have supporting talent in Yadav & Ishant. Sadly the other talented pace bowler -Shami - is injured. While Smith praised his 2 young pace bowlers , Dhoni is running down his bowlers. That is a Losing attitude. India had irfan Pathan - a very talented 20 year old seaming all rounder, when he debuted. Now he is forgotten. Dhoni has trashed any bowler given to him by benching them. How can you get talented guys to play with such negative approach?

  • mahendra1 on January 12, 2016, 12:18 GMT

    Dear Dhoni, please tell us now, who performed the best among bowlers? New comer, No? Then, what does it mean, no ready made talent in Domestic, That's how you are being failure now one after another just sticking one old talent and your base was built one others search fro new talent like Ganguly's man, now gone by. Better give chances to new talent like Rishi Dhawan, see how he performs before criticizing him, neglecting him. What your chosen favorites did in this match? giving more than 7 runs per over, knowing this is not spinner pitch, you played two spinners in your team.

  • mahendra1 on January 12, 2016, 11:52 GMT

    What would have happen if Rishi has given in this match a chance? He would have performed better than both of MS man R Ashwin or R Jadeja for sure.

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