Sachin Tendulkar to return home
India have pulled out a win out of nowhere to level the series 1-1, but their task of winning the series has become more difficult with Sachin Tendulkar has become the fourth first-choice player to return to India, joining openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, and fast bowler Praveen Kumar. A hamstring injury has ruled Tendulkar out of the series, and Parthiv Patel, the wicketkeeper-batsman, has been named as his replacement. M Vijay is the only specialist opener in the squad currently in South Africa.
Dhoni is no alien to such circumstances as India have hardly played cricket with their first-choice XIs over the last two years. "We will have to open with someone," he said. "I don't know what's happening, whether we are getting someone from India [as replacement] or not. The visa will take three days at least, he will take the next flight, and by the time he comes here we will have just one match left. I don't know who will open."
Dhoni sounded hopeful that Vijay will find some form. "Vijay is looking a bit out of form, but he's working well in the nets. Form is just a matter of a few strokes. Once you get those few strokes, all of a sudden you feel back in form."
These fitness issues have left Dhoni not demanding too much of his fast bowlers either, with the World Cup just around the corner. He said that right now fitness is more important than form, because there aren't too many choices, especially in the fast-bowling department.
Dhoni said he would need to rotate the fast bowlers in this series because there are a few niggles troubling them. "We will have to see what kind of niggle a bowler is having, and accordingly we will decide," Dhoni said. "Of course right now we don't have too many fast bowlers to choose from when it comes to the one-day side. You have two bowlers outside, Ishant and Sreesanth, who have not played a lot of ODI cricket recently. This series is important, but I don't want any bowler to get an injury just because of over burden. We will try to avoid it because World Cup is big for us, but at the same time this series is important."
Dhoni himself seems to be struggling after getting hit in the shin while keeping. If he becomes unavailable during this series, that will be some trouble because India don't even have a reserve wicketkeeper here.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo