Chennai's fortunes will rest on local talent - Dhoni
MS Dhoni, the Chennai Super Kings captain, has backed the cap on overseas players in a playing XI, saying it was the best way to identify and groom local talent and calling on overseas players to compete amongst themselves for the four available slots in the team.
"If the overseas players want to find a place in the playing eleven, they have to fight among themselves and not against Indian stock," Dhoni said in Chennai ahead of the third season of the IPL. "It is perfect right now and I am quite happy with the system of only four players finding place in the final eleven."
Dhoni quoted the examples of youngsters who have either gone on to play for India after making a mark in the IPL, or cement their places in the national side, as in the case of Suresh Raina.
"We had Manpreet Gony, M Vijay and S Badrinath coming into the side," Dhoni said. "We are contributing a lot towards Indian cricket. Overall, we are trying to groom the Indian cricketers for the betterment of the game in India.
"I want to make more players for ourselves. We are grooming Indian players from the Under-19 level or players on the verge of making debut for India. All those individuals rubbing their shoulders with international cricketers from India and overseas help them in learning cricketing skills."
Stephen Fleming, the Chennai coach, had his first practice session with the squad on Monday and said he was confident the Indian players in the squad would respond well to the challenge.
"Our team's performance will depend on how well our local players perform," Fleming said. "We are lucky to have some talented players from Tamil Nadu."
The team was jolted ahead of the third season with the news of Andrew Flintoff's pull-out due to injury and the likelihood of allrounder Jacob Oram missing the entire tournament, also due to injury. The two other overseas bowlers, Muttiah Muralitharan and Makhaya Ntini, have struggled for form, thereby affecting the balance of the team, whose strength lies in the batting.
But Dhoni felt there was no need to panic, as the local stock looked capable of filling the void. "As a team we rely more on our batting strength. We have strong options in bowlers like Gony, L Balaji, Sudeep Tyagi and spinners like R Ashwin in our ranks," Dhoni said.
"When our main bowlers have an off-day, we have strong options to use others as bowlers and Justin Kemp is one of them. Such options in a Twenty20 match are good for the team. Kemp is a big hitter. He can be an asset to the side."
He was also confident that Murali would deliver. "He is the best spinner in the world and still in the international circuit," Dhoni said. "He can be useful in every format of the game. He is a great guy to have in the dressing-room, like Makhaya Nitini and others."