Ind v SA, Champions Trophy Group B, Cardiff June 5, 2013

Dhoni disorientated but India far from lost


"It's good to be in England." MS Dhoni did not just utter it once, he uttered it twice. But, oh dear, Dhoni is in Wales, a land proud of its distinct national identity. For all Dhoni's charming smile, the good folk of Cardiff will be shuddering, there will be revolution in the valleys and in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerych-wyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, the village with the longest name in Britain, they will be lost for words. There again, with a name like that, that is not altogether surprising.

Welsh passions have occasionally boiled over. Robert Croft, a former England spinner, much loved in the Land of Song, was such a proud Welshmen that he always insisted he was playing not for England but for the British Lions. Croft once got into a dressing room altercation with Mark Ramprakash when Ramprakash questioned his allegiance.

But India's captain need not worry himself unduly about his slip. Britain is routinely confused over whether it regards itself as Great Britain, the United Kingdom, or three of the UK's constituent parts: England, Scotland and Wales. That is even before you consider the European Union.

If Croft leads a party of protesting Welsh nationalists outside the ground they will be lost in the general melee because, by the time the match begins, Cardiff will not be in Wales, it will be part of Little India. India v South Africa, the opening match of the Champions Trophy is sold out, and flags of saffron, white and green will fill Bute Park. The bottomless passion for cricket among India and Pakistan fans will help to bring this tournament alive.

The ECB (that is actually the England and Wales Cricket Board, not that everybody remembers the silent W) expects 10 of the 15 matches to be full to capacity - 11 if India top the group and return to Cardiff for the semi-final, perhaps to meet England. If there is one thing Cardiff could rely on, it is if England reached the semi they would know they were in Wales.

But that is not all. Even those who know they are in Wales might be confused once they reach the stadium. For years, the locals have implacably referred to the ground as Sophia Gardens, in defiance of its renaming as the Swalec Stadium when the old ground was largely demolished in the search for international cricket. And we have to admit, ESPNcricinfo has often not known what to think.

Thanks to naming rights issues, for the Champions Trophy, and Champions Trophy alone, the ground has been rebranded as Cardiff Wales stadium, with poor old Sophia Gardens nowhere to be seen, except in the hearts of tens of thousands of county supporters.

It is astonishing what confusion can descend upon a cricket ground once the politicians and business executives get involved. They would be better advised to turn their attentions to why so many shops are boarded up in St Mary's Street.

"The way the game has progressed, most sides in the first 10 overs will be happy to get 40 runs and keep as many wickets intact as possible."
MS Dhoni on how ODI cricket has changed

Dhoni, of course, proves that all this renaming malarkey is largely a waste of time unless somebody posts it on Facebook.

One matter Dhoni was definite about was that India will respond to the new rules - two new balls and more fielders in the circle - by fielding five specialist bowlers. "With the new rules it will be very difficult to play four bowlers and rely on the part-timers so definitely five bowlers will feature," he said. "It depends who you consider an allrounder and who you consider a bowler.

The team, at a best guess, will have Rohit Sharma and Shikar Dhawan as openers and Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin batting at No 7 and No 8. The weather is set fair in Cardiff, at least for this week, so India should be able to field two spinners without suffering as a consequence.

This is the first tournament India have played outside their own country under the new regulations -- two new balls and an extra fielder in the circle. In India, the regulations keep the balls harder in the middle overs and make strokeplay more possible, but in England, more conducive to seam bowling in any event, the bowlers will have a distinct early advantage.

The emergence of Umesh Yadav, in particular, makes India well equipped to take advantage with the new ball when batting but there are questions over whether they can achieve early stability with the bat if the conditions are testing. Even so, they should begin overwhelming favourites against a South Africa one-day side which lacks the strut of its Test counterpart.

"The game, you can say, has changed a bit with the introduction of the new Laws," Dhoni said. "It means if you keep wickets in hand you can really exploit the conditions and make a lot of runs. Most of the teams will see a bit of a change in their approach and try to keep wickets intact in the first 10 when the new ball may do a bit.

"The fast bowlers have a really important role. If you see the way the game has progressed, and see the statistics, most of the sides in the first 10 overs will be happy to get 40 or 45 runs and keep as many wickets intact as possible. That loss of 20 runs in the first 10 you can make up later if you have wickets in hand. If a side gets going more often than not they will end up scoring more than 300. We need to adapt quickly."

Yadav, who collected five top-order wickets in as many overs against Australia, has been allowed a privilege not granted to other members of the Indian party. He married Tanya Wadhwa, a fashion designer, in Nagpur on May 29 and has been allowed to bring his wife on honeymoon. There will be a few envious looks from team-mates in the hotel reception.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lalith on June 6, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    India should score over 400 in this match. I can smell the same result that India played Australia. Only team that can beat India is Pakistan as PAK's apparently have the best fast bowling attack. Hope PAK and IND get through from this group and also met in the final.

  • Lalith on June 6, 2013, 10:43 GMT

    Looks like SA is already gone. Rohith is batting really well and a good reply to those who criticised him in comments here.

  • Dummy4 on June 6, 2013, 7:36 GMT

    Rohit Sharma at No. 1? Well, in England, he is a prospective 1st over prey for the opening bowler.. He has yet to prove his credentials if he wants to be considered as a permanent fixture in the batting line up. My playing XI for the match against SA today is : Murali Vijay, Shikar Dhawan, Viral Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Dhoni, Jadeja / Irfan Pathan, Aswin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvanesh Kumar. If the team management choose to sit Vijay out, then better ask Dinesh Karthik to open the innings and take Rohit Sharma as a middle order batsman.

  • sriram on June 6, 2013, 7:18 GMT

    Why all the people bashing rohit. He is a talented player&far more better than vijay for the opener slot. Irfan pathan instead of ravindra jadeja would be a good choice in english conditions.

  • Ram on June 6, 2013, 6:36 GMT

    Rohit Sharma is utter waste to be in 15 men squad. IPL-6 was clear evidence that he plays ONLY if he offered a Captaincy? Sheer rubbish, this guy needs to be thrown. Dhoni should nurture Baba Aparajith in place of Rohit Sharma which will be handy in 2015 WC in Australia.

  • James on June 6, 2013, 4:43 GMT

    "The emergence of Umesh Yadav..." Say what? He has played 17 ODIs and averages 46 runs a wicket. How is that "emerged"? Oh, his last (practice) game was good. Is there anybody left in the cricket world who can look back further than one game? One practice game is not a trend. 17 ODI games doing poorly is. Wake me up when he is able to do it during genuine contests on a regular basis.

  • Dummy4 on June 6, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    Very good to see Indian's mulling with the idea of using Rohit Sharma to open in the 1st game itself along with Shikar . Vijay is definitely in patchy form and lucky to be in the squad. Without the likes of Smith, Kallis and Steyn, it should be a good outing for India

  • srikanthan on June 6, 2013, 3:50 GMT

    Give Rohit Sharma one last chance and dump him for good. We can close the chapter atleast for the next few years on him and declare that what could have been and what was.

    Utter waste of talent. It just shows that in top class cricket , it is the small adjustments even if you appear ungainly , that matters and not grace and elegance which lends itself to good TV now and then

  • Ananth on June 6, 2013, 2:44 GMT

    Rohit Sharma for M Vijay is probably a major mistake. Vijay got a poor decision in the Australia warm up game and should definitely play against South Africa. I think our IPL master -Rohit Sharma should warm the benches.

  • Michael on June 6, 2013, 2:13 GMT

    The tactic of scoring 'slowly' and keeping wickets in hand in England is not new or due to the new ODI laws - I remember the 1999 World Cup in England, where the swinging ball nullified many of the big-hitting opening partnerships that were in fashion following Sri Lanka's World Cup win 3 years earlier. In that tournament, the middle orders of most nations were the most productive and Pakistan, who had a remarkable ability to score quickly in the latter overs, did remarkably well. Sri Lanka, as it turned out, didn't make it past the Group stage.

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