Commonwealth Bank Series 2011-12 February 15, 2012

Dhoni sticks by openers' rotation policy

MS Dhoni has defended the rotation policy between the three senior India openers in the triangular series, which may suggest that Gautam Gambhir might be rested for the next game despite consecutive scores in the 90s from him. After India tied their fourth match of the tournament, against Sri Lanka, Dhoni was asked if it made a lot of sense resting a batsman who had hit form. Dhoni's argument remained that the youngsters should keep getting more chances.

"What we want is, all the players should be fit by the time we come into the finals," Dhoni said. "All of them should be scoring runs by that time. It's a good exposure. Rohit [Sharma] is a very talented guy. Manoj Tiwary is on the bench. He scored in the last series that he played, so we are giving ample chances to them because these are players who, for sure, will come back to Australia once we play the next World Cup. There is no surety that some of us who are playing [will return], Sachin [Tendulkar] or Viru [Virender Sehwag] or even Gautam, all of us are 30-plus, and it's big out-fields out here. So it's about giving the youngsters a fair exposure as to how difficult it is or how easy it is, or how different it is to play here."

How difficult is it to rest a batsman who has scored 92 and 91 in his previous two outings? "As I said, what's important is to get everybody going," Dhoni said. "What may also happen is the guy who is playing all the games may get injured by the finals, and you will find someone coming in his place who has not played many games and not scored runs.

"It's a long tournament. It's four games against each opposition before the finals. The first series that I played was three games against Bangladesh, so this is equivalent to three series and then the finals. It's a very demanding tournament, in the sense that the out-fields are very big, the batsmen put pressure on you, you can get injured at any time. If you are looking to save that one run and you are in a bad position to throw, you may get injured. We want all the guys to be fit, and at the same time for the youngsters to get exposure by the start of the finals… if we reach the finals."

Moreover, Dhoni said, India could afford to experiment a bit now that they have had a decent start to the tournament, winning two and tying one of their first four matches. "The interest of the team comes first," he said. "This is the time when we can really look to do that [experiment], because if were in a bad shape by the end of the fourth game, it would have been fair to say we wouldn't really be in a position to give that chance to the other players. And we would have had to be careful.

"Now we are in a position where we can do that. It's good to see Gautam scoring runs. We want to see Viru get runs and Sachin also to get runs so that the best XI comes and plays the finals."

Dhoni was full of praise for Gambhir. "It [his coming into form] is really good because once he gets going he comes out with a big score, and he looks to play more than 35 to 40 overs, it allows the other batsmen to come in and play a bit freely. Of course the difficulty is, we have been chasing so you can't always express yourself.

"It's good to have someone like Gautam in the side. Plays the spinners really well, and he runs well between the wickets well. It gives the team a chance to come back just in case a couple of batsmen make mistakes in the middle of the innings, because you have someone who is on one side going through with his innings."

After the previous game against Australia, though, which India won in the 50th over, Gambhir had said that India should have finished it off around the 48th over. It was Dhoni who had delayed the final assault, cutting it too tight before finishing it off in typical style. At the toss of the next game, against Sri Lanka, Dhoni said that if a batsman scores about 50 he should make sure he finishes the game off. Dhoni was asked if everything was fine between him and Gambhir.

"There is nothing [uneasy between us]," Dhoni said. "It's different when you are playing in the middle. If you see his innings today, he also found it difficult to rotate the strike consistently, and once you are in that situation it is very difficult to play a big shot. You can easily play big shots, but the difference is it always has to pay off. If it doesn't, what do you say?

"So I am never in a hurry to finish it in the 48th over or 47th over. Even if it goes to the 49th or 50th over, I am quite happy. [Since I bat down the order] I don't have the luxury of batsmen behind me. If I go in to bat, I like to finish the job. It's different with different people. Some people like to finish the game early, take a bit more risk in the middle and finish off the game, but I have a different perspective about it.

"It's a very individual thing. There's nothing wrong. If you ask Viru pa [Sehwag], he would have said 'why not 25 overs?'"

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo