Australia v India, CB Series, Brisbane February 19, 2012

Senior batsmen cost 20 runs in the field - Dhoni

MS Dhoni has said the team will lose out on about 20 runs in the field if all three of Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag are played together. When asked if, taking today's XI as base, the addition of Sehwag at the expense of either Suresh Raina or Rohit Sharma was worth 20 runs, Dhoni answered emphatically in affirmative. He said the impact another slow man on the field will make is intangible to eyes outside, but fairly clear to him.

"People often talk about that one run, but that one run that you save, it changes the strike, and if the next ball the batsman plays a big shot - a six or a four, it can have a big impact," Dhoni said. "If you see, the last few games that we played, we got two or three run-outs and that really had a big impact.

"Also, it's not only these three players [Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir] that we are talking about. We also have quite a few other players who are slow on the field. It will just add on to that, and we will be left with just two or three really good fielders. It's not that these fielders are bad, but for this environment and these conditions and big outfields, they are slightly on the slower side. They will be exploited."

"Once the ball goes to them, the Australians or the Sri Lankans will try to exploit the doubles or three runs. It means it will put more pressure on their body because the throwing needs to be good, and the diving needs to be good so they will under constant pressure. So ultimately it will be a pressure game."

Dhoni is not adamant, but it will only be an extreme case when all three play in a game together. "That may happen," Dhoni said. "It will affect our fielding in a big way, which means there will be more pressure on the batsmen to score those extra 20 runs. But if the middle-order does not perform consistently well, you may have to go with the experienced guys at the top of the order."

Dhoni was asked if the fielding was more important than skill. He replied that it is a misconception to not consider fielding a skill. "In India, there is less emphasis on fielding, that's why you say skill is cricket and fielding is fielding," Dhoni said. "When I was young, fielding was considered slogging around, and batting and bowling was always fun."

Dhoni will miss the next game because of the slow-over-rate ban, but when he comes back he has a challenge with the fitness of the side. Today, too, he said he was forced to bowl out Zaheer Khan early - in the 40th over - because the bowler was cramping up, and Vinay Kumar was cramping up too. It left India with Irfan Pathan and Vinay for the last few overs; Australia took 101 off the last ten.

"[It slipped in] the last 10 overs," Dhoni said. "The bowlers felt the heat. Right from the start of the second Powerplay, [in the] 36th over I saw my best fast bowlers battling through cramps, so that was the reason I bowled Zaheer Khan out in that spell.

"I didn't want to lose any overs from him and then kept Vinay Kumar for the last few, but he also felt the cramps. In the last 10 overs they batted really well and our bowlers were not really able to execute the way they could have if they were not battling cramps or the heat. It was hot out there and you are supposed to go through that phase, but I felt they found it slightly difficult to go through."

If despite resting bowlers and managing their workload, India are going through this problem, they have a real issue at hand. "Everybody was hydrated but at times we have seniors. Over here there is no breeze, it becomes very hot. And it is a big outfield, [batsmen] put pressure on the fielders, they have to put a bit more pressure on their body to not let the batsman score doubles from them."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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