Dhoni asks for endurance and intensity from bowlers
India's fast bowlers will have to be prepared to bowl long spells in New Zealand, and run in with the same intensity they showed in South Africa, captain MS Dhoni has said. Zaheer Khan, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma bowled a collective 91 overs in the second innings of the Wanderers Test. A week later, they sent down a combined 86 more in the first innings of the Durban Test. Dhoni said their energy levels did not dip even in their fourth spells, and said more of it will be needed in New Zealand with little help for spinners.
"The good thing was, their approach was really fantastic [in South Africa]," Dhoni said. "What we have done as a team is, I like to give them short spells so that they are fresh thinking about the third or the fourth spell, if needed. Use them in short bursts. But if the situation demands, they will have to go for long spells. With [Ravindra] Jadeja, he can hold one side, he can bowl long spells, of course, that depends on how well he is bowling.
"In South Africa, I felt they did a very good job. Even when we bowled too many overs, when they came for the last spell, they were still putting in a lot of effort. That is what is important. You don't want to give away easy runs. Let the opposition score off good shots. It was a good performance from them, depending on the scenario."
Dhoni said Indian fast bowlers were used to going flat out for wickets thanks to the fewer overs they bowl at home, where spinners are used more. In New Zealand, they will need to be patient, which is where the experience of Zaheer will come in handy, the captain felt. "It is not only motivation [from Zaheer]. It is about bringing up new plans, and helping the youngsters to execute those plans. In the subcontinent, at times the only thing fast bowlers look for is wickets. They want to get wickets in each and every spell. Sometimes they only have two or three spells in the whole day.
"But over here the scenario changes. They have to bowl more overs, they have to keep coming back for second spell, third spell. Sometimes if you are bowling well, maybe even a fourth spell on the same day, which means you have to be a bit more patient. Bowl one line and length. Try to build on the pressure. It will be a real help to the fast bowlers as he [Zaheer] is someone who has played a lot outside the subcontinent. It is always good to have an experienced bowler in the side."
Also of help to the fast bowlers will be the restrictive presence of Jadeja, Dhoni said. Jadeja was the preferred sole spinner for India in the previous Test in Durban, where he bowled 58.2 overs in the first innings, picked up six wickets and conceded only 2.36 an over. "In the Test format, what we have seen is he is definitely someone who can keep it tight," Dhoni said. "He gives the liberty to our fast bowlers to attack a bit more. Jadeja can keep one end closed, and not give too many runs so that we can build some pressure and the fast bowlers can attack from the other side."
Ishant was the third seamer alongside Zaheer and Shami in South Africa. Ishant averages less than three wickets a Test, but Dhoni said as the third fast bowler his role was to not let the opposition get away when the ball stopped moving around. "More often than not we have used him as a one-change bowler," Dhoni said. "That again becomes a very crucial slot. At times with the Kookaburra ball, you don't get a lot of swing after 25-30 overs. It is important you keep hitting the same length, and try to get the batsmen out with his extra bounce. It will be crucial for him to keep it tight, keep bowling in the same areas, keep repeating the action, keep hitting the length we want him to, and build on pressure.
"The one-change bowler is crucial as once we give away too many runs, it becomes a situation that when the new ball is due, you cannot afford to have too many fielders in the catching cordon as you have already given away too many runs. A lot in the modern day is dictated by what pace the opposition or home team is scoring at. If you are scoring at over four or close to four an over, it means in 90 overs you have already reached a par-plus score. Then it becomes difficult for the opposition whether to go for an attacking field or go defensive. Let's see how it goes."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo