'Now we know we've got players who can do well anywhere' - Dhoni
MS Dhoni believes that India's young side has transitioned into a stable unit with the help of sustained exposure at home ahead of a number of overseas trips.
According to Dhoni, the first one, to South Africa, proved that the team had players who could perform in all conditions. As they depart for the second trip, to New Zealand, the India captain said that tackling bounce and generating it were the major challenges facing the batsmen and bowlers respectively.
"The good thing is that though there have been quite a few changes [to the team], before we went for the last tour we got enough time in India," Dhoni said at a press conference in Mumbai, ahead of the team's departure for New Zealand. "Quite a few of them played few Test matches in India and we did well and were confident of their ability. Quite a few people were speculating about how the batsmen will do or how the bowlers will do [in South Africa]. Now we know we have got a set of players who will do well irrespective of where we are playing and that is a big positive.
"As of now, both our [ODI and Test] squads look quite settled, which is a good thing because it's very important to back individuals. If you talk about the batsmen, not all of them have played a lot of Test matches outside the subcontinent. So they will take some time.
"But what we have seen is that almost all of them have played ODIs outside India and still they have performed really well, which gives you the confidence of saying that they have the ability to do well outside the subcontinent when it comes to dealing with pace and bounce. Yes, the red ball does slightly more and for slightly longer periods in Test matches and it's different, but if you have the talent to perform in one format, definitely you have the talent to perform in others too."
For India batsmen who are used to unpredictable and low carry at home, leaving balls on the bounce alone in New Zealand is likely to be a challenge. But Dhoni said that his batsmen had shown in South Africa that they could tackle that test quite well.
"We have a slightly bigger challenge in the sense that ... [even] if the fast bowlers bowl back of a length in India more often than not it is very difficult to leave on the bounce, but when you go outside you know you have the liberty of not only leaving on the line, but also if you judge the bounce and if the wicket has good bounce, you can leave on the bounce.
"This is something you learn over a period of time and I think the batsmen did well in South Africa, they handled good fast bowling and at the same time they were quite positive. There were quite a few things that happened in South Africa that gives us the confidence of saying that we have the talent of doing well anywhere in the world."
Dhoni also said there was healthy competition among his bowlers, with more and more recovering from injuries, and that the challenge for his attack was to squeeze more bite out of drier pitches.
"I think there's more competition when it comes to the bowling department. One year back some of our leading fast bowlers had injuries. Back then we didn't have too many options," he said. "But now with all of them becoming fit and being available for selection and doing well on the domestic circuit, they have enough competition amongst themselves, which is a healthy thing to have."
"There's one particular condition we have to improve on, which is on wickets that are on the drier side and just have a bit of bounce on offer and not too much of seam movement. The reason being, most of our bowlers aren't those who hit the surface. Most of them are those who swing the ball and bowl slightly up to the batsman. At times we encounter wickets that are on the drier side and you have to bang in the ball to get bounce and pace."
In the absence of a seam-bowling allrounder, Dhoni also called for India's specialist spinners to show more patience and build pressure in overseas Tests, pointing to Ravindra Jadeja's performance in the Durban Test as an example.
"One thing that the home team would like to do is to ensure that the wickets don't turn at all. The reason being that we don't have an allrounder. We don't play with five specialist bowlers. Over the years we have lost our part-timers who were as good as specialist bowlers.
"If the ball doesn't spin they [the opposition] can take runs off the spinner, rotate the strike and look to score over three runs an over, and that actually puts the pressure on the captain. You don't want them to score over three-and-a-half runs an over when the spinner is bowling. [Then] you're forced to bring back the fast bowlers and they end up exhausted after the first day workout.
"In that respect, Jaddu's performance was good. Also the spinners will have to accept that when they travel abroad and when they're bowling on the first-day wicket, their role is slightly different. They need to have a bit more patience and not give them runs so that you are also building pressure from one end. They get late turn from the third or fourth days and that's the time they need to go in for the kill.
"When they play more and more games outside India, they'll start accepting the fact that in their first 9-10 over spells in India they might get one-two or more wickets, [but] outside they need to be more patient in their first spell, especially if they are bowling on the first day of the Test match. It's a bit tough on them but till the time we find a seaming allrounder, they'll have to bear that."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo