England v India, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 5th day July 21, 2014

Dhoni masterminds bouncer attack


Ishant Sharma: 'I think all these wickets are not for me, it is only for the captain' © Getty Images

He looked the same when he entered the press-conference room. He made familiar jokes. He seemed the same man, not too overjoyed by a big Test win. Still, this MS Dhoni was a new MS Dhoni. Having completed India's second Test win at Lord's, after getting sent in on a green pitch, Dhoni revealed how he had to step in and get his bowlers to execute what seemed like the right plan to him. He also said it was high time he intervened.

Dhoni had to convince Ishant Sharma to bowl bouncers at the England batsmen after they had blunted India's plan A for almost the whole first session. The result was a five-wicket collapse against the short ball in half an hour, three falling to the pull or the hook and two when left-hand batsmen fended rising deliveries.

"To start off with, it was very difficult to convince him [Ishant]," Dhoni said. "When he first came on to bowl, I asked him to bowl short, and he turned the other way. Then I set the field for him so that he couldn't even think of bowling up. So the strategy was to give him a field so he is forced to bowl the length that I wanted him to bowl.

"It worked, and once he got Moeen's wicket [with the last ball before lunch] he was eager enough to try that attack for a consistent period of time. He works really hard on his fitness and on his bowling and doesn't shy away from bowling long spells. Whenever you ask him to bowl, whatever situation, he gives his 100%. There is no reason why he shouldn't test this line of attack. He will have to bowl a high number of overs outside India so he will have to bowl short because he has the height so he can exploit the bounce and put pressure on batsmen. He can add this to his armoury because it is definitely difficult to convince him."

Dhoni spoke about how he had let his bowlers be, but of late he and Duncan Fletcher had begun to more than nudge them in the right direction. "Duncan definitely wants to try everything, and he wants the bowlers to bowl short also. We have been trying to convince our bowlers to bowl a few bouncers. At times we had this problem in South Africa and in New Zealand that we bowled the first 10 overs without bowling a single bouncer. And you go and ask them and they say it was swinging enough to get the batsmen out.

"At times it's not the bouncer that gets you the wicket but what happens after the bouncer that can actually get you wickets. At times it becomes difficult to make them understand even if you are saying it in simple words. Cricket is a complex sport. Ishant never wanted to bowl round the wicket. He was like, 'No it's going that way. So I want to bowl over.' So what happens is when you go through that phase it opens that sector for you. Your armoury increases. We don't want to force ourselves on the bowlers, but now in the past four or five games I definitely think their view to bouncers and short stuff has opened up. Now they are using it quite consistently."

Dhoni's comments may not show the bowlers' intelligence in great light, but it is a welcome change from a captain who has been accused of being too passive in the field.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sudeep on July 24, 2014, 12:15 GMT

    Does Dhoni want Indian cricket fans and critics to believe that he has to convince and cajole his bowlers? This is insane! He is the captain of the team. As captain he consigns Sutart Binny to do modelling on the boundary line and forget about bowling. So, why could not he tell Ishant and Shami to bowl bouncers? Hogwash! Dhoni is not a Test captain, period. He has struggled to beat this third class England team which looks fourth class because Cook and Bell are out of form. Add to this lot Prior whose wicket-keeping, like Dhoni's is not Test standards. Dhoni is not a Test captainl. If he is not confused, then he is adamant. Can't believe he includes Binny in team and doesn't give him the ball. If this is the case then why the hell is Rohit Sharma warming the bench? And, on seaming pitch is Dhawan better than Gambhir? Selectors must get rid of Dhoni from the Test team - can't bat on seaming pitch, cant keep and makes dumb decisions. Time to hand Kholi the reins.

  • t on July 23, 2014, 0:26 GMT

    this illustrates why we've been so poor in away tests (& ishant always) if after playing 50+ tests you need to be forced to try something different when plan A is clearly not working then something is seriously wrong. it also seems that indian bowlers dont have backup plans if things dont go their way india were lucky that eng were intent on harakiri coz even the way that short ball plan was executed was ridiculous. bowling each & every delivery at same length makes it like a bowling machine. a good side would've just left the ball alone & wait for the bowler to tire. the short ball should be used as a surprise once ever 2 overs or so. eng were seriously poor there. i think it was a ego thing there that sharma is not johnson so lets get some quick runs

  • AJay on July 22, 2014, 13:43 GMT

    At last, the Indian team is realising how "bowling to a plan" is an important part of the strategy on the field. Though, what works on one day, on one wicket, may be useless on another.

    Therefore I still believe that India should bring Ashwin for Binny in for the next match as he is a different type of spinner from Jadeja and so they will have more variations to choose from.

  • Shiv on July 22, 2014, 13:43 GMT

    India had to lose so many matches before Dhoni could finally learn how to captain a Test team.

  • Shiv on July 22, 2014, 13:40 GMT

    After so many years, looks like Dhoni is finally learning the art of Test captaincy.

    Even a rock can captain any team, if the players can do whatever they want. Its not called giving freedom to the players but its called not being able to be a leader and command the team. When you have a plan you must ensure it is executed even if the players like it or not, that is captaincy.

  • N on July 22, 2014, 10:27 GMT

    Ishant being able to bowl so many bouncers with an old ball is commendable. But there is a problem here. No one else could make use of the variable bounce, so no one else could take wickets. Pankaj Singh is a 130 kph swing bowler but he is very tall (6'4) and can get good bounce. He should play in place of Shami/Binny.

  • NalinWikkey on July 22, 2014, 10:04 GMT

    India should focus on getting Ishant stronger so he can be more menacing. It is a shame to waste the height - with more pace he could bowl a mean bouncer

  • Dummy4 on July 22, 2014, 9:18 GMT

    MSD captaincy at its best. Not only did he convince Ishant to do what he wanted him to do, it came off spectacularly. Dhoni has to be more proactive regarding team tactics in the future

  • GAURAV on July 22, 2014, 9:13 GMT

    @cricmatters, Annderson can't bowl anything. His record avg of 30 plus on tailormade conditions in england is pathetic. Even zaheer khan averages 28 depite bowling on dead wickets for fast bowlers. Anderson is just ordinary bowler.

  • Ashok on July 22, 2014, 7:10 GMT

    For all the talk of India being poor players of short pitched stuff, show me one team that handles them comfortably. South Africa struggled against Johnson earlier this year, as did Australia against Morkel in the second test. Let's not forget the way West Indian quicks harassed Australian batsmen in the late 80s and early 90s. Its simple really: everyone struggles against fast stuff aimed at the body.

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