India v South Africa, 1st ODI, Jaipur February 20, 2010

Chance to test bench strength - Dhoni

Cricinfo staff

Indian captain MS Dhoni is confident that the absence of key players will not upset India's chances in the three-ODI series against South Africa, starting tomorrow at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. Dhoni said the team had learned to cope with injuries in the recent past and the series presented an opportunity to fringe players in Indian cricket.

The injured players in the Indian team are Zaheer Khan (leg), Yuvraj Singh (wrist) and Gautam Gambhir (groin). All three were ruled out of the series, while offspinner Harbhajan Singh, the best bowler in the Kolkata Test, will miss the first two games in order to attend his sister's wedding. The selectors have included allrounders Yusuf Pathan and Abhishek Nayar and offpsinner R Ashwin.

"The confidence of the team is good. As far as missing a few players is concerned, we are missing some player or the other in every series," Dhoni said after the team's net session. "I think it is a good opportunity for young players to prove that they belong to the international level. Besides, it also gives you the chance to test your bench strength.

"We will see whatever the best combination we can pick according to the situation and the wicket. We will miss a few players but whatever players we have in the team, they all have done well whenever given a chance. I don't think it should be a big worry and whoever gets a chance will do well."

Dhoni said Harbhajan will be missed but a number of part-time spinners will be able to fill the void. Ashwin, the Tamil Nadu spinner, was named as Harbhajan's replacement.

"Harbhajan is a great spinner. He bowls well and does both the roles, containing as well taking wickets. Of course we will miss him but hopefully everything would go well," Dhoni said. "You can say we have quite a few batsmen who can bowl. We are still searching for the perfect allrounder, a fast bowling allrounder, because it balances the team combination.

"In this side it is good that we have batsmen who can bowl like [Virender] Sehwag, Abhishek Nayar, Yusuf Pathan, [Ravindra] Jadeja and Suresh Raina. So we have quite a few batsmen who can bowl. There is some extra help in case one of your regular bowler is struggling."

With Zaheer out, Dhoni hinted Praveen Kumar could get a look-in. "If you see Praveen, he has not got the pace. He is not an express bowler but I feel he is a street-smart cricketer. The change in length, speeds and the variation that he has got, and the amount of cricket that he has played, really helps him."