India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai, 5th day February 26, 2013

India have found a settled combination - Dhoni


MS Dhoni has said India have found a "settled batting and bowling combination" for the remaining three Tests in the series against Australia. It is every indicator that India will go ahead with playing five bowlers, including Ravindra Jadeja as the third spinner, for the remainder of the Test series.

Under Dhoni, India have rarely gone in with five bowlers, even if including an allrounder, but the last two Tests - against England in Nagpur and Australia in Chennai - have been different. Dhoni said that playing at home had made the five-bowler choice "a big plan". Due to the conditions at work, he said, they can perfect the combination at home.

Playing overseas with Dhoni as the sixth batsman makes the batting look "weak." At home, though, including Jadeja in XI has worked, Dhoni said. "With three Tests to come this looks like a very settled batting and bowling combination."

The three spinners put into use on the way to India's eight-wicket win over Australia in Chennai did not include left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who had taken 20 wickets in the last series against England. The closer the Hyderabad pitch resembles the one in Chennai, the greater the chances of Ojha sitting out of a match on his home ground. Jadeja, who bowls left-arm spin and has far greater batting credentials than Ojha, Dhoni said, had made it into the team as a third spinning option.

The choice of Jadeja over Ojha, Dhoni said, had worked for two reasons. Offspinners R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh had been brought in because Australia had four left-hand batsmen in their top six. "They had lots of left-handers and we assumed the wicket will turn and often it is said the away-going spinner is quite difficult to play," Dhoni said. The inclusion of Jadeja came about due to his batting abilities over Ojha's and because he could "bowl long spells and can be conservative in that he can bowl tight".

"That was one of the reasons we said let's go with two offspinners and one left-arm with Jadeja doing the job."

Jadeja's presence in the XI, Dhoni said, had automatically meant the captain would come in to bat at No.6, one spot up from his otherwise established slot at No. 7. "Till Jadeja is playing I will have to bat at No. 6 and till he gets comfortable and used to international Test cricket," Dhoni said. "If he really starts to do really well according to the amount of talent he has, we will think about it [where Jadeja should bat] later."

Dhoni's elevation to the No.6 spot for the second Test in succession produced his maiden Test double-century, 224 scored at a strike rate of over 84. He was run out in the Nagpur Test for 99. The two innings are different due to the demands of the game, but his approach to batting has stayed the same.

"This game was evenly poised and Nathan (Lyon) was bowling well," Dhoni said. "It was important that you get rid of that extra catching fielder that is around you. So that if you misread a flighted delivery or you go back to a ball that is pitched slightly up, you don't have that one extra catching fielder to take that inside edge or that bad pat. And it worked well."

Dhoni said the rest of the batting line-up too had played its role even though neither Cheteshwar Pujara got to 50 nor Sachin Tendulkar hundred. "They played for a considerable period of time and the humidity over here, we all know Chennai gets quite humid and bowlers get quiet tired… we were able to bat for more than four sessions, so overall it was a very good effort both by the bowlers and the batsmen."

"You can't make three or four spinners bowl the exact number of overs. You don't see the number of overs bowled by them before you make a bowling change, you see who looks effective and make a bowling change."
MS Dhoni

India's two medium-pacers in the Chennai Test, Ishant Sharma and debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar, may have bowled between them only 33 of India's 226 overs in the Test but have given their team, Dhoni said, the options and variety it needed, which as good as ruled out the idea of packing another spinner in Ojha in the XI in Hyderabad. "You have to be sure the wicket will turn," Dhoni said. "On the first day most of us assumed it will be a turning track. There will be plenty for the spinners. But we saw it was a decent wicket. That's why you want to be prepared in a situation where you think this is what may happen, but it goes the other way around."

Dhoni said Bhuvneshwar's ability with the bat had given India another lower-order option and that the extra spinner would have made it difficult to juggle him around the other three. "You can't make three or four spinners bowl the exact number of overs," Dhoni said. "You don't see the number of overs bowled by them before you make a bowling change, you see who looks effective and make a bowling change."

If there was an element of the Indian batting that appeared weak in Chennai it was the opening combination of Virender Sehwag and M Vijay, but Dhoni said he would wait before drawing conclusions. "You need to give them a fair amount of time," he said. "So let's hope for the best… Let's continue with him (Vijay) and give him some time and that comfort of saying he is wanted over here."

When asked whether the memory of the Nagpur 99 had played on his mind, Dhoni said, "I've got five 90s so it doesn't weigh any more - I personally believe it's the top six batsmen who worry about the 100s. I've never thought a lot about hundreds."

Dhoni said he was asked by Dilip Vengsarkar after he had scored 92 at The Oval whether he would have done something different with reference to his dismissal. "I said no, I would bat the same way if I get a chance to hit, I'll hit. So nothing much has changed… what's your speciality remains your speciality."

This has been the shakiest period in Dhoni's captaincy following a home series defeat to England and he said he dealt with the pressure by not reading the newspapers or watching television. "It's not like I don't read newspapers," he said. "But third page from the behind is the sports page, so you try to get rid of it. Because otherwise you don't know what's happening in India.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • karthik on February 28, 2013, 19:41 GMT

    I still have some time for Sehwag.Yes, he's been abysmal for the last 2 yrs both home and away.But to be fair,he's been more than subtle in the last 2 yrs about his preference.. in middle order.If Dhoni can hide himself at 7 and makes younger players take the heat always and Sachin won't move from 4,why cant Sehwag get his own spot? Get someone else to open!

    There has to be consistency on being flexible too.Who knows Sehwag might have been a solid middle order batsman by now with his ability to destroy spinners and old ball.In fact if he has to be in the team,middle order is the only place for him to fit in.Selectors cant drop him just because Dhoni doesn't like him..same happened to Gambhir.If they have to drop anyone merely on performances,it is Dhoni himself who's been pathetic with bat and glove except that 100.But then he's all the immunity as a captain and the biggest bane of Ind cricket.

  • karthik on February 28, 2013, 19:28 GMT

    @Nampally 100% Agree with you..well said and nicely articulated.Yes I do expect idiot Dhoni to repeat the 1st test combo..Imagine even for a WC at home he ignored critics on Ashwin etc but only got him later when pressure was unbearable.So contrary to what he proffers he does buckle under media pressure but now,alas there is no expert outside to objectively criticize his policies.But as you rightly said,I feel its curtains for Rahane,Ojha as long as his useless CSK bunch of Vijay,Jadeja stay in the 15.The selectors need to show some gumption and drop them after 2nd test if they fail again.Otherwise I see no chance for deserving players under Dhoni who looks set to destroy the Indian test team with atrocious & illogical selections.

  • Nish on February 28, 2013, 17:47 GMT

    Dhavan for Murali (not sure if Dhavan is more capable, but that is the only option) Ojha for Bajji Rahane/Tiwari for Jadeja (Tiwari can try his leggies to compensate for Jadeja's bowling if needed)

    Then I and many of the IND fans on CRICINFO and worldwide will be happy, I guess

  • Nish on February 28, 2013, 16:31 GMT

    @VJ_Cricket I hope you are RIGHT..... But Dhoni has proved many a time in the past that he preferes to be arrogant than strategic.....

    Posted by VJ_Cricket on (February 26, 2013, 14:33 GMT) Guys... & Gals, pls relax. Still have few days before next match. Clearly he will not do the same mistake as aussies, revealing any changes on the of the win or this early. #mindgames?

    my guess is Dhawan for Murali and Ohja for Bhajji for next game.

    still think Viru shud move to middle order!

  • Dummy4 on February 28, 2013, 15:52 GMT

    I just can't believe, that Bhajji is more suitable for Hyderabad than Ojha! I can't believe that either of the two opening batsmen showed any semblance of form ... it is more galling to accept, when the team chosen by the selectors (which itself ignored many worthy contenders) has two youngsters warming the bench, both of whom can be developed into decent openers -- Dhawan & Rahane.

    Any way, Dhoni has repeatedly said that he thinks of ONLY the test in hand; not beyond that! Alas, who cares for the future? (Pl don't read more than what I say. I am not saying that Dhoni is not a worthy captain. He is the best to lead India at the moment. But some of his playing XI choices are highly questionable)

  • Dummy4 on February 28, 2013, 14:23 GMT

    Funny how a winning team has a settled batting line-up and a losing team calls for changes. Tend,kohli and dhoni were poor against england and not against aust...thats all thats changed. As for the openers...vijay and sehwag should stick to t20 cricket..indian selectors seem to use ipl as the basis for test team selection...lets not disappoint the public!

  • roshan on February 28, 2013, 6:35 GMT

    I really dont know why pankaj singh is not getting chance in indian test team he had been given only one chance in oneday team against srilanka. he is a great fast bowler he had 4 times 10 wicket hauls and 17 times 5 wicket hauls and he is capable of getting wickets in international level. similarly ishwar pandey and sidharth kaul performed well in some of the matches still they are not picked and played at international level. sreesanth should be given chance if ishant is not playing well. dhoni is a good captain he really reciprocates with selection committee.selection committe could have selected ambati rayudu and c m gowtham for shikhar dawan that could have been the good choice. they are the great players to get the nod in indian team. i really feel murali vijay, jiwan joth singh, v a jagadeesh, ian dev singh, abhinav mukund, ravi inder singh, dinesh karthik are the real choices for the opening pairs. right now i will stick with virendar sehwag and murali vijay in next 3 tests.

  • darius on February 28, 2013, 6:08 GMT

    drop Vijay ASAP.what kind of affection do they hv with Vijay,its beyond me,a puzzle which cannot be past Chairman of selectors Srikant also persisted with Vijay,which was a huge with Patil ,Vijay continues to enjoy the same support he had earlier.i ask everyone here on this thread,do you guys find any class in his batting,1% of it,do you?even if 1 person comes up jstifying his place in the team,i 'll quit criticizing Vijay frm there on.....

  • Al on February 28, 2013, 2:27 GMT

    Sehwag and Bhajji are begging to be dropped. They are way past their use-by dates. On current form, Jaffer is a better opener than Sehwag, and Rasool is a better off spinner than Bhajji. Vijay and Jadeja are not test class players. Let them play in IPL. Please try Dhawan and Ojha in tests. Ishant sharma is a mediocre pacer. Indian Selectors need to do their job and select a youngster like Shami Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, or Sandeep Warrier.

  • Anit on February 28, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    Lets not get carried away by assuming all is fine with this line up. We all know the outcome of the recent England series after India had won the first test. No way this line up is settled with so many non performers. Murali Vijay should be given more chances. His basic technique is not wrong. He is losing out on playing poor shots. He needs to sort out his game. May be play safe shots initially until he is settled and then open up to play more risky shots. Shewag will not get any better. He is once in 10 innings wonder now. SRT should hang boots even if he can play. Bhajji is a spent force.