South Africa v India, 2nd ODI, Johannesburg January 14, 2011

Dhoni asks for positive intent from batsmen


India find themselves caught in an ODI series that is neither here nor there. This is no preparation for the World Cup by any stretch of the imagination, for the surfaces, the overhead conditions, the pressure, will be completely different in February and March in India. Still, everything is going to be looked at with an eye on the World Cup. If, for example, one of the younger ODI specialist batsmen struggles against the bouncing ball, the team is not likely to fret too much. The conditions, it will be said, will be different in the subcontinent.

The series is not even a chance for the final 11 or 12 players who will be expected to feature in the World Cup to play together; Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Praveen Kumar are already back in India, nursing injuries. Also, winning is looking difficult, especially if even one of the bowlers has an off day, as Ashish Nehra did in the first ODI, in Durban. That leaves the batsmen with a lot to do, and the younger lot is not going to find it easy on bouncy pitches against an attack featuring Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

The Wanderers game on Saturday will be India's last before the final World Cup squad is announced, which should get rid of any distraction there might be because of the ICC tournament. MS Dhoni, though, wants his side to forget the tournament even before that, saying the second ODI would not have any bearing on who gets picked for the World Cup. "I don't think it is just one performance that will matter," he said. "The guys who have worked hard throughout the year, and have delivered in the last one to one-and-a-half years will get a chance. It will be wrong if you try to select the team on the basis of one performance. We will try to select the best XI [in South Africa]."

That seems to be the best way to go: let the selectors do their job in India, let us do our job of trying our best to win the series here. To do that, India will have to quickly adjust to the conditions here in South Africa. If Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh don't do well, the middle order looks inexperienced despite the number of matches they have played between them.

Dhoni called for better shot selection, but not at the expense of scoring runs at a good pace. "Being selective is important, but positive intent is too because you can't look to [just] survive. There will be something for the fast bowlers initially, especially if you are batting second, but you need to score runs and boundaries off the bad deliveries because that takes the pressure off you. If you are scoring at 2.5 an over, at the end of the day, you are mounting pressure on yourself."

With overcast conditions predicted for Saturday's match, and perhaps rain interruptions too, the bowlers will look for a better showing than in Durban. The job will only become tougher for the batsmen, with more seam movement expected than in Durban, especially if Dhoni keeps up with his form at the toss, which would mean India will be batting under the lights again.

"What we have told ourselves is that the toss is one thing beyond our control. Irrespective of what happens at the toss, we shouldn't really let it have any impact on ourselves because what is important is to give our 100% on the field, and if you are concentrating too hard on the toss, you are not giving your 100% in a way."

Dhoni said the right mindset will be the key to whether India can make a comeback from yet another slow start to a series. "You lose games, you win games. What is important is to have the same mindset throughout the series. It will be very important to start afresh because whatever has happened has happened. You have to start from scratch, we just need to play to our potential."

Duncan Fletcher, South Africa's batting consultant, spoke of the need for his side to stay alert to the kind of comeback India staged in Durban after they were outclassed in the Centurion Test. However, both the sides know, with the difference in quality between India's Test and one-day sides, Wanderers is not as likely to see a comeback as Kingsmead was.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cool on January 15, 2011, 17:40 GMT

    Dhoni should have positive intent from himself first.Why is he ignoring Yusuf pathan , sreesanth and Ashwin now.They can be easy replacements for M.Vijay/R.Sharma, Nehra and Harbhajan.Come on!!!!!!!! with this favorable mindset of captain where does this Team go in the WC.It might become tough even to get to the Semis, forget Finals and forget winng the WC.This team cannot win WC with the present form considered.That's why Saurav was known to be the best captain known till date.He always encouraged and brought in talent into the team.Whom did Dhoni bring???? Fashion stars???any consistent player????? Give break to Harbhajan its high time.He is ok for test cricket but not ODI's.Lets hope Dhoni does justice to his job given.Good luck team India.

  • raj on January 15, 2011, 17:14 GMT


  • Dummy4 on January 15, 2011, 16:16 GMT

    Hi every one here, kindly think atleast when playing international matches that Indians are plying not tamilian or punjabi or bengali. We are surely not playing a ranaji trophy or IPL here. Also Indian team is facing the best team in the world cricket, atleast we should be equally best to be an equal competitor or else our team is not worth to be called the best team in the world cricket. Also if M. vijay is not to be expected to perform in this high pressure tournaments, then he should be off the team and play only the comfortable tournaments against Kenya, Netherlands or such like. A player is given a chance to prove his worth, if he cannot all through the tournament, then he has no job there, should quit immediately. It has happened previously also with many players and some better performers also. Kindly don't be regional in your views on national team, also I hate Kris Sri as a national selector, but like him as a player.

  • Ashok on January 15, 2011, 14:11 GMT

    @suryaBose: Sir most people who comment have been good cricketers in their time or have a good knowledge of cricket. I have played high level cricket too with colleagues like Asif Iqbal & jaisimha. I know it is tough to play well against SA but you cannot keep playing with a couple of losers as your main bowlers repeatedly. You need to change tactics. Nehra has bowled attrociaously in the first ODI & also against NZ. It does not require a Rocket scientist to say he is out of form and drop him. It is not a "bad day at work", as you . I am an Aerospace & Nuclear Engineer. If I had such bad days I will be fired. Nehra is playing in the second ODI too. You counter teams with tactics as well as with talent available instead of repeating mistakes.Let us call spade a spade. India was absolutely flat & totally lacking in effort in the last ODI. I made suggestions which has logic & truth in it and they are practical. Ashwin is a good bowler who never gets a chance. Pathan is a match winner too.

  • Arjun on January 15, 2011, 14:01 GMT

    I dont know how many of you guys will agree, but I think Sachin should have played few ODIs atleast once in three months over the last year. He played way too much test cricket, why not few ODIs in between. He is just one series away from the World Cup, thats too short of a time period to get back to his supremal best. Anyways i pray that he gets back soon. Every time we came close, it was mainly because of Sachin, that is in both 96' and 03' WC. I guess there is not much of difference now, a little expection for Gambhir, who is the only player who can play unbiased cricket, and has the potential to play full 50 overs like Sachin.

  • Dummy4 on January 15, 2011, 12:10 GMT

    hp the guys come out with their guns blazing at the africans........all the best dudes

  • Shayesh on January 15, 2011, 12:04 GMT

    @Raj12345: I have absolutely no problem with TN players. I don't have much problem with Vijay either, but I don't think it's particularly smart to get him to open in a high-pressure series. If you consider his technique and footwork, he shouldn't be opening there in RSA, that's it! Otherwise, I think TN possesses really talented players like Mukund and Badrinath. Badrinath deserved a chance probably before Pujara, but oh well! At least someone got a chance!

  • Rohan on January 15, 2011, 12:01 GMT

    murli vijay should only play fr his chennai super kings, when is this srikanth leaving???? tired of seeing bunch of below average tamil nadu players...

  • Dummy4 on January 15, 2011, 11:52 GMT

    Out of context but still I would like to point out that ads are ubiquitous on CKT channel. Your TV screen is shortened and u've to watch a smaller sized players for the moment. Again on sides, u see ads, on bottom u see ads. In middle u'll find explosion of mobile.......(the point was earlier raised by one of my cricinfo colleagues).Just bcoz of this, now i am repenting that I should have purchased a 50+ inch TV instead of 40".......... also I am now watching matches on DD instead of TEN cricket as it shows lesser nos. of ads; never mind the commentators on DD as I think Anjum chopra is better commentator than the likes of Pollock, Jackman, Mbangwa, + Charu. In absence of good commentators, match seems more boring than it usually is. TV channels should take a lesson out of this disgust.

  • Sid on January 15, 2011, 11:03 GMT

    see the bottom line is that indians are naturally weak playing short ball with exceptions like tendulkar (only) in the current team. Yuvi, Rohit sharma are very weak on seam movement..correctly pointed out in the artcile. Check stats. thinktank of dhoni is good; more batsman than bowlers. Trying yusuf on current conditions makes no senes. Ashwin for a batsman makes no sense either. so stay with current team. Change opener (vijay with maybe rohit) the only viable option. Minus the toss we need to really improve on our fielding..a better effort from munaf, zaheer might help. team will remain unchanged exception batting order might change.

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