South Africa v India, 4th ODI, Port Elizabeth January 20, 2011

'Harbhajan is bowling as well as he has in his career' - Dhoni


India came here as a potential threat to South Africa's proud home record, but while people would have expected the result in Tests, it comes as a surprise that for the second time on the tour India find themselves one match away from winning a series. It didn't happen in the Tests, although 1-1 was a hugely creditable result, but in the ODIs they have two chances to become only the third side to win a bilateral series in South Africa.

They have come close without the services of key players; something they have become used to in limited-over series. Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Praveen Kumar have played no part in the series, and Sachin Tendulkar went home after the second game.

On the eve of the fourth ODI, MS Dhoni said his side was approaching the game the same way as any other. "The mood is the same," he said. "When we lost the first game, we felt it was very important to keep a positive state of mind throughout the series. We play so many games, so our mood and mental state cannot fluctuate too much. We always concentrate on the process, and don't really see what the scorecard is saying or what the series position is. We are not thinking about anything right now. We just need to make sure that we don't repeat all the wrong things that we have done so far in the tournament. That will be our focus."

One of the big positives from this series for India has been the way the spinners have performed on tracks that, in theory, should be less helpful than the ones in the subcontinent. Harbhajan Singh, Dhoni said, "is bowling as well as you have seen him bowl through his career", and the part-timers are "a big plus for us".

"Harbhajan has done really well. We are using him regularly in the Powerplay and have used him even before the 10th over." Harbhajan has gone for just 3.82 runs an over in the first three games.

Dhoni said the reasons for the improvement in Harbhajan's form could be a mix of conditions and batsmen's attitude. "If the batsmen are successful, we tend to turn around and say maybe the bowler is not bowling well, but sometimes it may just be that the batsmen are playing really well.

"Some of the Indian tracks are too flat to do anything on. The batsmen have the momentum from the very start. If they get off to a good start, then once you bring the spinner on, it is a 50-50 scenario. They go after the spinners. If in the first few overs they are able to apply some pressure, then the spinner is on the back foot. A lot depends on where you are playing, and how the batsmen are coping with you."

Dhoni is also pleased with the work the other spinners have put in. "Along with him, the part-timers are doing a real good job, and of course the team composition allows me to have a few more part-timers than we would [with a full-strength squad]. Virender Sehwag is not bowling regularly, if Gautam Gambhir is part of the side he doesn't bowl, and we are not using Sachin Tendulkar that much, but because of their absence we are featuring players who can contribute with the ball. It gives me the liberty of using even eight bowlers in one innings."

Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh have combined to bowl 40 overs over the three ODIs played so far and have taken five wickets between them.

That, though, doesn't undermine the importance of the three big batsmen when they are back. "We will have to use the resources that are part of the side at that point of time. If you see the best batting line-up the Indian team has, Viru will be part of it, so will Sachin and Gautam, which means we will have maybe just two part-timers in the side. The surprise element of who is going to bowl from the other end won't be there, because I won't have so many options. But still they are the best batting line-up, and they will feature, that's why we need to perform with the bat more than the ball."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • naishal on January 22, 2011, 19:34 GMT

    for worldcup in subcontinent, parttimers will do very well Yuvi, yusuf and Raina all can bowl well in spin friendly pitches.... so this is nice sselection....

    Chawla might get a game or 2 ... by replacing Munaf.

  • naishal on January 22, 2011, 19:32 GMT

    I dont think Kohli will get a chance in World cup... unless Yusuf or Gambhir fails against mediocre teams during group stages( which aint gonna happen , bros..!)

    So we will have 4 batsman in Viru, Sachin, Gambhir/Kohli, Dhoni, 3 batting allrounders and part time bowlers in Yuvi, Yusuf, Raina and 1 spinner in harbhajan 3 fasters in Zaheer, Pk , Munaf( chawla if spin friendly )

    Now bowling problem of India is genuine.... but we can not afford to have it now at cost of Yuvi, yusuf or Raina.......... so live with it.

  • Dummy4 on January 21, 2011, 16:48 GMT

    Baaji is a world class bowler according to Dhoni.With helps from the pitch,umpires,why not he could take all the ten wkts.He has not bowled to Richards,Botham,Chappells,Anwer,Zaheer Abbas,Miandad etc.A very lucky bowler like Kumble.

  • Ranura on January 21, 2011, 14:25 GMT

    @ Saransh Saxena: dats true, but only coz he played more games agains sl n pak. otherwise he didnt

  • Dummy4 on January 21, 2011, 12:28 GMT

    No replacement for Sehwag at this moment. Please replace your comment first :) you need to have atleast two batsman with good strike rate for World cup. (we have it in Sehwag and Yusuf) Kohli is just an average batsman with good average in less than 50 innings , might be best at no 3 spot. So one batsman with good strike rate (sehwag) will open the innings.OPENER other one with good strike rate (Yusuf/Raina) will finish the innings (atleast give a try/cry) . FINISHERS.

    GOT IT ?

  • Varasidhi on January 21, 2011, 12:15 GMT

    Kohli is not yet a replacement for Sehwag... if anything, he might replace Raina or Yuvi in the XI. Kohli still needs to work on his back foot play... not saying it is an important requirement in India but knowing how teams these days target a particular batsmen's weakness or less skilled areas it something worth looking at. And I am in no way endorsing the back foot play of Yuvi, Raina and Gambhir, but they take precedence over Kohli for the following reasons: a) Gambhir is more experienced and has a good test record against quality fast bowling which will negate and short pitched tactics b) Raina and Yuvi bat much lower in the order and should ideally not face up to short pitched attack, Kohli would come in later as well but would you prefer to have Yuvi / Raina to take strike in your end overs or Kohli? So there... my analysis for the day :-)

  • Cricket on January 21, 2011, 11:35 GMT

    Dhoni is so bad in planning strategies nowadays, he always rely less bowlers and more batsmen plan which i arguably deny. See, dhoni says "'Harbhajan is bowling as well as he has in his career' " and yet he give 9 overs in the match. And he give nearly 20% bowling to part timers. You dont utilize your main bowlers when they are doing good. Bad leadership and very bad stimultaion to the co-workers. ---- Why these double standard statements. ---- I like dhoni so much but Nowadays i believe that dhoni is lucky to be a winning captain but not winning by strategies.

  • Gavin on January 21, 2011, 11:11 GMT

    Give me a break!!! Cricket Nellore: it would appear you have no clue about cricket or any law. There is absolutely no law or regulation that says you have to play with 5 batsmen, 5 bowlers and a wicketkeeper. You play with the best strategy that works and as long and it is in the spirit of the game and does not violate any law it is fine. As far as you 'ask any expert' comment goes, there are enough experts who are praising Dhoni's captaincy and leadership. India are playing to their strengths - in the absence of a good alrounder this is the best option and if it wins the match why not??? As for Abhimanyu's comment - every team plays an extra bowler or batsman depending on the situation/ ground/ team strength. Lets just appreciate some very good captaincy, fighting spirit and playing quality and stop just trying to find fault even when we are doing well

  • Rakesh on January 21, 2011, 11:04 GMT

    I hope they rid of useless M Vijay. He is only good enough to play for CSK. Also dont understand the point of carrying Ashwin along if he is always going to be a reserve. This has happened numerous times. He is talented and should be given oppurunities now that he is in the world cup squad.

  • Cricket on January 21, 2011, 10:05 GMT

    @G.Sateesh Murali Reddy: Even if abhimanyu is kid, he is absolutely right. Its not a professional game which is to violate the law of game 5 bowler/5 batsmen and a keeper. Ask the experts they will criticise this funda. How would you take just 4 bowlers when you have to bowl 50 overs, its ridiculous game plan, when you dont rely on the potential of your 5 solid batsmen how would you think that your part time bowlers will do.. Yes, dhoni the lucky fellow, may get luck in some matches but not a genuine strategy of playing cricket. ----- btw, India is not playing with just one batsmen more, but 2 extra batsmen, dhoni is also a batsmen boy!!!! its 7:4 ratio - Ridiculous game plan.

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