Dhoni plays down possibility of batting order shuffle
Yuvraj Singh and Hardik Pandya were brought into the Indian T20 side to address the lack of big hitters, but there is a good chance they might come back from Australia having contributed only with the ball and in the field. If what MS Dhoni says is to be gone by, another good start by the top three in the final T20 international could mean no batting for Yuvraj and Pandya. Dhoni said he was against experimentation even though India wrapped up the series win in Melbourne, but then again Dhoni also ruled out playing Rishi Dhawan precisely two days before he was picked in the ODI XI.
The final T20I in Sydney on Sunday will be a dead rubber, and Dhoni was asked if India would go out of the way to see what potential Pandya held and what kind of form Yuvraj was in. "It is a difficult one," Dhoni said. "Experiment word is never there with the Indian team. It is never there. Yes we want to see what Yuvraj will do in the batting, we want to see what Hardik can do, but where is the opportunity? That also we have to see.
"We can't make them open. Virat [Kohli] is batting very well at No. 3. If the partnership goes on, and if it is the 15th or the 16th over, then it is my time to come in and play the big shots. It will be difficult for them, but with a few of the games coming up maybe they will get better chances. But as I said there won't be any experimentation. If an opportunity arises definitely they will get a chance to bat."
Yuvraj and Pandya, though, have freed Dhoni up to play around with his bowling options. After Australia got off to a good start in their chase, R Ashwin picked up a wicket to give India a sniff, but by that time India's four main bowlers had exhausted 10 of their overs. This was a crucial period with Australia past half of their target at the halfway mark. The next two overs were bowled by Pandya and Yuvraj, and both brought a wicket each.
"The strength of the piechucker [Yuvraj] is his bowling," Dhoni joked. "He bowled really well. You need more individuals who can do more than one job in the field. Especially if all of them are good fielders, and if they can contribute with bat and ball if needed. Just adds to the strength of the side. Sometimes in T20 you need to bowl only one over, and once the captain has given you that one over, irrespective of whether it is good or bad that one over is out of the equation. That actually helps you. That one over. By the time the batsman figures out what you are trying to do you get rid of one over.
"It helps us because Pandya also bowled decently well (1 for 17 in two overs). Both of them together will be very good. Not to forget we have [Suresh] Raina too. If needed he can also bowl if there are many left-handers in the opposition. Yuvi bowled really well, hit the areas, and with time he will get better and better because he is that sort of player."
Pandya has really impressed Dhoni, and might leapfrog Rishi and Stuart Binny as the seaming allrounder in ODIs too. While counting the positives from the tour, Dhoni said: "Also the performance of Hardik as a bowler. Still it will be tough for him to bowl 10 overs in an ODI game but if others are contributing a few overs here and there then we can look to have him in the side. That can strengthen our batting also and at the same time put pressure on the opposition."
It is in foreign conditions that India really need that extra seamer because the spinners become less effective, and this is where Dhoni wants the ICC, too, to stop experimenting. When asked about the luxury his spinners provide him, Dhoni said: "All of a sudden the spinners are bowling well. Not like they were bowling badly but we have to see the rule changes also. I think it is quite against the spinners. I feel they will have to do something with the rules [in ODIs]. In T20 you have the five fielders outside throughout. You have that extra fielder [as opposed to ODIs where only four fielders are allowed outside the circle until the start of the 41st over]. Let's see how it goes."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo