Bangladesh v India, 3rd match, Kitply Cup, Mirpur June 12, 2008

Dhoni draws confidence from Gambhir

For the second time in the Kitply Cup, India's openers laid the platform for victory with an aggressive partnership
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Gautam Gambhir's fifth ODI century was an extension of his recent Twenty form, and set the platform for a massive win © AFP
 

For the second time in the Kitply Cup, India's openers laid the platform for victory with an aggressive partnership. Gautam Gambhir took centre stage today and, after an opening stand of 85 in ten overs, went on to score an unbeaten match-winning century.

"I always had confidence in him," Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's one-day captain, said of Gambhir. "We were on an India A tour to Zimbabwe and Kenya. We played together and I've always regarded him as a batsman. He's quite aggressive at times and he gives it his all. Even if he's got a big score in the last game, he wants to score in the next game. He always gives more than 100%."

Gambhir's fifth ODI century was an extension of his recent Twenty20 form, especially in the IPL where he was, predictably, one of the leading run-scorers with 534 runs at 41.07 from 14 games. Gambhir is also no stranger to opening the innings in ODI cricket; he has taken guard at the top 29 times out of 49, scoring three hundreds at 35.88.

His form has been complemented by his opening partner, Virender Sehwag. His 89 dominated their partnership of 155 against Pakistan on Tuesday and his 59 off 32 balls against Bangladesh got India off to a furious start. Dhoni praised the efforts of his openers and said that their contribution was doubly important because of the conditions in Mirpur.

"It [the start] is extremely vital especially in these conditions," he said. "When the ball gets old it is difficult to score fluently. So it is always great if you have two openers who give you good starts. Today's wicket was better for batting compared to the last game. So far in the two games, we've got the starts we wanted. Hopefully we'll get it in the final too."

The colour of the pitch, unusually dark because of the black soil used, also makes it difficult for new batsmen in the middle order to sight the ball because it gets discoloured around the 25th over. The pitch also tends to get slower as the ball gets older, hence it is imperative for the openers to score significantly while the ball is new.

India made just the one change for this game, bringing in RP Singh for Ishant Sharma, when it was thought they'd use this opportunity to give the bench strength a shot. Dhoni simply felt it was an "appropriate" change.

"You look at the team composition and you want to win whether you are playing either Pakistan or Bangladesh," Dhoni said. "We could have changed a batsman but several batsmen didn't get a proper opportunity to bat in the first game. So it was a tough call but we are playing many games in the near future so most probably everyone will get a chance."

India's victory over Bangladesh today has ensured Pakistan's qualification for the final of the Kitply Cup on June 14.

George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo