India tour of South Africa 2010-11 January 11, 2011

Dhoni wary of tricky one-day conditions


Durban two weeks ago was a big moment for India. They came here battered from Centurion, and in conditions that VVS Laxman described as "some of the most challenging I have encountered in my career", managed to win only their second Test in South Africa. And it came during the series everyone was talking about, the series everyone seemed to be living for. Fittingly, for once, back home in India, it was the Tests that were the end of the world. Now that the ODIs are upon us, on the eve of the first match, it comes almost as a realisation that India have managed to beat South Africa in South Africa in this format only on one more occasion than they have in Tests. And they have made more attempts, 20 one-dayers as opposed to 15 in Tests.

Difficult as it may sound, it is time to put that incredible Test series behind, and start focussing on setting this record right too. South Africa, in comparison, have done much better in India, winning nine and losing 13 to the hosts. If other opposition were to be included, they have won more than they have lost in India, which can't be said of India in South Africa, despite wins against Namibia, Netherlands and Kenya that boost the number a bit.

"We did lose all the games [the last time India played a bilateral one-day series in South Africa]," MS Dhoni said. "There's only one way to go - you can only go up from there. But as I say it's not about the past. The Test series was very different from 2006, and as we always say, we have a completely different side. We have quite a few youngsters who are into the grooming phase, which means at the end of the day, it's a win-win situation for Indian cricket."

Playing ODIs in South Africa is a unique challenge in a way. The pitches offer good bounce and aid stroke-play, while the outfields are rarely large or slow, but there is enough seam movement on most occasions to keep the fast bowlers in the game. From afternoon to night, the weather can easily go from summer to winter at most of the venues.

"You have to start respecting the bowlers right from the very start," Dhoni said of the one-day conditions in South Africa. "The white Kookaburra ball does a bit initially, which means if you see the new ball off, the older ball comes on to the bat nicely, which means you can play your strokes. Most of the grounds are not very big.

"It's good to bat during the day time. It does slightly less compared to the evening session. Under lights the ball does a bit more compared to the afternoon session. The toss becomes a bit crucial. But even after winning the toss you have to do the basics right."

India aren't ideally placed in terms of their squad strength, with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir out as precautionary measure for the World Cup that will follow this five-match series, and Praveen Kumar returning home after injuring his elbow on the eve of the first match. This has been the case with the India team for a while: they haven't been able to play a full-strength side since the five-match series in New Zealand in early 2009.

"It would have been good to feature the main XI," Dhoni said. "Since last February, we haven't played the full XI that maybe featured in the first game of the World Cup. But we are risking injury. We have to save quite a few players. We have a fair amount of niggles. We don't want to miss any of the key players just before the start of the World Cup. Most of them have missed the whole season. I don't mind them missing one more series as long as they are available right through the World Cup."

We live in an age where every bilateral limited-overs series is becoming more meaningless than the previous one. This one is not too different, in that it draws its entire context from being a preparatory event for the World Cup. Stuck as it is between an awesome Test series and the World Cup, this series will need the best of India, to survive in isolation.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ashusharma221084 on January 12, 2011, 17:08 GMT

    I dont think Vijay should be given any more chances. As far as the opening backup is concerned, you can create a opening batsman with your existing ones. Example is Sehwag himself who was not an opener. It was Ganguly who took chance and gave India one of the most dangerous opener ever. Unless and until you do not take risk, situation is going to be remain the same. Why can Dhoni not try Yusuf Pathan in opening. Yusuf did opening in many first order matches an even in IPL as well. There are chances that he might not be succeeded but if he succeeds we will be having a perfect decendent of Sehwag.

    Dhoni is just worsening pathan's talent. He is not giving him chance to bat. It was Gambhir under whom he scored his only ODI century. Although it was also on the same position but still I think Dhoni should give him chance in higher order instead of gambling with Vijay or Jadeja (thank God he is not in the squad otherwise Rohit, as well, would have lost his place)

  • Nolifeonmars on January 12, 2011, 13:33 GMT

    @sweetspot: I second you. I mean to say Rohit should get a chance to play. Thats my concern. I hope Vijay bat well in this game too. He also should get some chances to open so that in WC If VIRU is not there, someone should be there to open. I happy that Rohit has got chance to play. Bt why they dropped Yusuf pathan?

  • arunpoduval on January 12, 2011, 12:20 GMT

    Murali Viajy's highest score is 33 in ODI's and his strikes at a rate of 64.5. he is a waste in ODI's. But I am very sure he will play all the one dayers in SA as Indians are trying thier best to make him score some runs and push into world cup team. I am not a great fan of Rofit Sharma and Virat Kohli but I have to tell that M Vijay cant even be compared with them , because he simply dont have the talent of the other players.

  • sweetspot on January 12, 2011, 7:19 GMT

    @Nolifeonmars - Rohit Sharma hasn't performed very consistently for India in the chances he has got. He also hasn't faced the tough bowling that Vijay has faced. Vijay has got out to good balls in the Tests usually after holding one end up for long, since Viru was firing at the other. Rohit Sharma played well in Australia, but he's better in the middle order.

  • coolmask on January 12, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    BCCI should prioritize the WC event more than the meaningless SA ODI's. WC being held in its own backyard has its own plus points like the public support, not to mention its well known friendly conditions plus with its present strength will be an ideal and a golden opportunity true to win the title. SOLUTION:-Still nothing is lost, immediately after the first ODI there should be a total recall of all their main guns and instead they should mobilize a second unit with a mix of some former players under Dravid with the likes of Uttapa's,Kaif's,RP Singh's,Agarkar's just to name a few along with youngsters like Pandeys,Rayudu's,Iqbal's etc.(The list continues). It will be interesting contest and meanwhile the best players would have been retained for the WC in time to get over their niggles. If it so happens that key players are added to the injured list than the chances will be very slim for India to win the WC and all because of its stubborn insistency to pursue the ODI's.WAKE UP CHIKKA

  • dummy4fb on January 12, 2011, 5:55 GMT

    we will talk after we win.. most ppl said india will lose test series 3-0 and we proved them wrong.. we dont believe in past or statistics we live in present and this current indian team is evenly matched for sa in every aspect and we have one advantage "best spinners in the world in bhajji and ashwin"

  • khalith on January 12, 2011, 5:04 GMT

    ASSALAMU ALAIKUM and hi to all, yes i too wonder y RP Singh not included in team for ODIs he may b good in SA pitches also he may b d apt choice for replacing PK in ODIs he has played more matches than PK in sa pitches any how go guys try to give ur best may d Almighty's peace n blessings b upon u all d best to both of d teams.

  • Nolifeonmars on January 12, 2011, 3:32 GMT

    I think Rohit sharma should get a chance instead of Vijay. Look at the last four innings played by Rohit. He has good strokes in his dictionary. He played sensible innings whenever India needed him in slog conditions. Sachin and Virat should open. Put Rohit sharma at one down.Give chance to harbhajan.He is doing good at bat. My prediction is India will win One day by 3-2.

  • kapilesh23 on January 12, 2011, 3:03 GMT

    this series and series of past have one difference the resurgent sachin tendulkar .tendulkar never performed the way he performed this time in test before .and he will continue that in odi's .when it comes to youngsters i don't think murali vijay should play ,he doesn't deserve that .rohit sharma is in the same category as well .i have big expectations from virat and pathan .and hope finally yuvraj comes good .

  • Avradeep on January 11, 2011, 23:59 GMT

    My predictions: 1-4 in favour of south best 2-3. Raina and yousuf failing again. Yuvi and virat will show some signs of form. Rohit - sometimes impressing. Dhoni - will play a few match saving innings. India will heavily rely on tendulkar. Fast bowling will be good.

    But - this series will not affect india's chances in the world cup. So - selections of Raina and yousuf should not be based on their performance in this series.

    I hope that i be proven wrong - woefully wrong.

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