Australia in India 2012-13 March 25, 2013

Era of aggressive Test fields over - Dhoni


MS Dhoni has said that while fielding strategies and placements on India's slow, low turners have re-written the conventional textbook around attack and defence, the assessment of pitches and tactics appeared somewhat slanted.

Sixteen wickets fell on day three and four innings were completed over three days at the Kotla as India finished its 4-0 creaming of Australia. When asked whether surfaces like those in Delhi were right for Test cricket, Dhoni's reply was sardonic and also contained his response to past criticism of his captaincy. "Well, you'll have to answer what is 'right' and what is 'wrong' because your opinion really counts ... When four fast bowlers play, it becomes strategy, when three spinners or four spinners play, it becomes a bad wicket."

He went on to give an example of how the interpretation of the same deep-field placements were different for different captains: "For Virender Sehwag, if you have a deep point and a deep-third man and a deep-square leg, it's a strategy. If MS Dhoni has a deep point and a deep-square leg for David Warner, it's a defensive field set. You have to see the mindset [of the batsman] and accordingly go ahead."

Dhoni also stated that the era of aggressive cricket, wherein having a mid-on up was common, has gone. Dhoni said: "The kind of cricket that we play has entirely changed … The era of seeing aggressive cricket, where you had to have a mid-on up, has gone." The in-out field, used in plenty by the Indians, has become the norm with positions distributed between fieldsmen in catching positions and the boundary riders.

In the Delhi Test, Dhoni described the offspinner's conventional field: "You have a short leg, a backward, and a slip. And you have three fielders - deep midwicket, long-on and deep-square leg." The latter three may have been conventionally considered boundary-saving, defensive fielders, but Dhoni said today's field placements had much to do with studying the comfort zone and mindset of individual batsmen. Whether to employ a mid-on or long-on fielder was a decision that had to be made through a flexible reading of different batsmen, he said, and not on whether to stop the single or the boundary against all batsmen or the scoreboard situation.

"You read the batsmen to see if he is in the mindset of rotating singles, if there's a mid-on, deep midwicket and four catching fielders, and if he can rotate every ball. If he's not having any problems, then you try to bring in the mid-on fielder or deep-midwicket fielder to build up the pressure."

If a batsman has more confidence going over the infield, "especially on wickets like these, it's important that you don't concede runs in a bunch". The aim of the deep fielders was, he said, to deny the batsman the boundaries and check the opposition scoreboard from racing ahead. At a time like that, Dhoni said, he was fine with the batsmen taking singles because it created more chances. "If you rotate [the strike] four times, you get four runs and [on] those four runs, you can get them out as many times."

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shannon on March 27, 2013, 19:12 GMT

    Sameer-hbk - Are you planning to read the whole article, where Dhoni was talking about changing his field to suit different batsmen? The easier route is to pick a line out and criticise.

  • vas on March 26, 2013, 18:04 GMT

    Tennis is played in varied surfaces. There is grass court (wimbledon), there is clay court (French open - cricket's equivalent to spinning dust bowls of India) there is hard court (US open) and other artificial courts.Don't Ivan lendl's French open wins count and he was less of a champion because he didn't win Wimbledon. Cricket is the same. Different countries different conditions. Who is good and who is not, ICC rankings are there to decide. No need to mock Indian spinning tracts. Learn to play spin bowling.

  • sameer on March 26, 2013, 15:16 GMT

    "If you rotate [the strike] four times, you get four runs and [on] those four runs, you can get them out as many times." I am pretty sure no top quality bowler in the world will agree with this. Bowlers work on a batsman and from all I have heard from likes of Wasim Akram or Shane Warne is that they do not like it when batsmen rotate strike. Dhoni's statement probably talks volumes about kind of bowlers India have- Just keep bowling without planning a batsman's dismissal and either they will make a mistake or the pitch will do something unusual. it is a lottery and someone will get themselves out; unless they are Cook, of course!

  • satish on March 26, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    @ Drifting : In that case you also have to consider the conditions available there as well as the fast bowling unit available to Mccullum to impose such field ..!! Don't just say, think !!

  • Ajay on March 26, 2013, 6:19 GMT

    No Asian team has won a series by a 4-0 margin against eng, SA or Aus and India is the first team to do it and that makes every INDIAN proud.... All the other analysis can go to the dogs but this a big achievement for a team from the Sub-Continent....

  • Harjoth on March 26, 2013, 5:07 GMT

    Wow, is he watching Brendon Mccullum's feld settings?!! It now looks like England will just about survive New Zealand's stirring gauntlet. But the audacity of New Zealand's sustained gambit throughout this series has been orchestrated by the Black Caps Captain's fearless ingenuity, and is what makes test cricket so very, very special!

  • mayuresh on March 25, 2013, 21:50 GMT

    Ishwar Pandey and Shami Ahmed have tobe tested before naming squad for SA. Both can be deadly for SA as Stayne and Philander for India.

  • Jason on March 25, 2013, 19:17 GMT

    I watched the India v. Australia series as an English neutral and loved every single session of it (what I saw live & the highlights). MSD & India out thought, out fielded, out bowled, out batted and out played a clueless group of very very disappointing Australians. The home team used their fair advantage to the maximum & trounced a team unable to adapt to the subcontinent conditions India were brilliant in all areas and set fields (as you would expect) to exploit any of the batsman's weaknesses and it paid off. Australia are obviously going through a similar period last experienced in the '80s and the current players cannot bully their way with class & quality as they once could. There also seems a lack of comradeship. India won fair & square and to watch their mesmeric bowlers was a real treat... the Australians seem to have a battery of bowlers but chop and change so none knows where they stand AND they are lacking in any quality batsman... The times they are a changing...

  • Dummy4 on March 25, 2013, 18:15 GMT

    It really depends on the conditions. Ian Chappell once said that early on in his career, he was in danger of becoming an "Adelaide Oval" captain. Dhoni is a good captain in Indian conditions because he knows how to manipulate the field here. Overseas, you need to keep things simple, have slips/gullies and attack most of the time. The pace bowlers will create enough chances, but the pressure must be kept on batsmen at all times. Dhoni was terrible at this when we went abroad, but he can always learn.