Dhoni pleased with allrounders stepping up
MS Dhoni, India's limited-overs captain, has welcomed the return of batsmen who can also contribute with the ball although it may, as a tangential consequence, delay Ajinkya Rahane's comeback into the team after a hand injury.
On a pitch that slowed down, India looked in control for the first time on the tour, and it possibly came down to the fact that Dhoni had many bowling options up his sleeve. Besides the frontline bowlers, he tried debutant Hardik Pandya for three overs and Yuvraj Singh for one and even had the option of Suresh Raina had the need arose.
Rahane is a specialist batsman who does not bowl. When asked how difficult it would be for him to fit into the team combination, Dhoni said: "We will wait and watch once he gets fit. That will only increase the problem, but it is a good problem to have. Allrounders are important. If Hardik doesn't bowl me four overs in every game; even if he gives two overs or three overs, I can still use others.
"What I don't want is top five or top six batters, including the keeper, where you don't have a bowling option. If somebody goes for runs, you don't really know what to do. In this format, you will have bowlers going for runs. At that time, you want your part-time allrounders to come in and give you that one over because that one over can help.
"We will wait and watch how it goes. I think it's important to have players like Yuvraj Singh who can bowl and bat, Suresh Raina, who can bowl and bat. Because if you have too many one-dimensional players in your top order it becomes really difficult when someone has a bad day."
One of the "part-time allrounders" Dhoni is now looking at is Pandya, and his stronger suit - batting, primarly his ability to hit big from the get go - hasn't been seen in international cricket yet. He was on a hat-trick at one time, but it wasn't really the kind of debut that will end India's search for a seaming allrounder. Pandya bowled five wides in his first over, and his first wicket came off a delivery that would have been another wide had Chris Lynn not driven him straight to extra cover.
"When it comes to international cricket it is all about handling the pressure," Dhoni said. "Once you are given the ball, there is some pressure on you because it's your first game and you don't know what kind of bounce is there or what kind of pace is there. There would be some kind of pressure. After the first over I knew the second over would be better. I was happy with the second and third over. Still he [Pandya] will have to be more consistent with line and length. That will give me a lot of confidence to consistently play him as the third seamer when the need arises."
The two big factors to India's win, though, were two of the most consistent performers on the tour: Virat Kohli with the bat and Ravindra Jadeja with the ball. Kohli's almost risk-free innings of 90 off 55 gave India a target they could defend, and on a pitch that slowed down Jadeja gave Dhoni four overs for 21 runs and two wickets, including that of Steve Smith.
"In Adelaide, they are making a stand [named after] him," Dhoni joked referring to Kohli's red-hot form at this venue. "By the time he ends his career, quite a few Australian grounds will have his stand. Yes, he is batting really well. The important thing is when he is taking the risk of playing the big shot, he calculates it well. It is easy to play the big shot, everybody can play it, but it is how you calculate, and according to your strength take the risk. Then there is more chance of being successful.
"Also he is somebody who looks to score in front of the wicket. Of course, he is a good cutter and puller too but he looks to hit in front of the wicket. That gives you more chances of being successful. He is somebody who reads the game well. Right from the start whenever we have an interaction he is always looking to improve as a cricketer. If you have that kind of curiosity it helps you become a better cricketer. It is good when youngsters grab their chance, I think Virat did really well when he got a chance to bat up the order. It makes the work easy for everyone."
Jadeja has the same calming influence to his captain. "Whenever there is a bit of help he is somebody who bowls generally," Dhoni said. "You know his spectrum of performance is generally narrow. The difference between his good and bad performance is little, which makes it slightly easy for us and gives us that stability."