Dhoni impressed with seamers on placid track
Following the high-scoring draw at the SSC, the Indian captain MS Dhoni has defended his bowling unit, which is yet to bowl a side out on tour, including the Board President's XI in a tour game.
"I am happy with the kind of effort they [Ishant Sharma and Abhimanyu Mithun] are putting in to their bowling," Dhoni said. "In the last two Tests, we have bowled first, and there was nothing in it for them.
"Quite placid tracks. Even when you are bowling in the second innings, the wicket slows down a bit, so the batsmen are going to be in little discomfort. And if you are bowling first and the wicket is one of these sorts, it gets really difficult for a fast bowler to either contain batsmen or get wickets. But still they were up there when it came to pace. They were bowling at decent pace and they are always willing to bowl whenever they are asked to, so overall, I am quite happy with their performance."
It was an inexperienced pace attack, with Ishant trying to come out of a lean patch and Mithun making his debut, but surely more was expected of Harbhajan Singh? Apparently not. "It's about when you are bowling," Dhoni said. "If you are doing that on the first two days with nothing in the wicket, with no marks, it doesn't really bother. In the second game here he looked very impressive, getting bounce. If conditions are slightly in his favour he can do wonders for the team.
"It's really difficult to judge what a good performance is. At Galle, Murali took 25 overs to get that one wicket. So it's not always the wickets that count. You also have to see the broad picture - when the bowler bowls, who the batsman is, the start the opposition has got and accordingly, you have to decide."
Dhoni spoke about having to play a lot of cricket in batsmen-friendly conditions. "If it's always about bowlers' turning up and taking 20-odd wickets on wickets that are in favour of the batsmen, it's not really possible," he said. "It's not the first time we are playing a Test match or a series where we haven't been able to get the batsmen out. So I don't think it's a big worry.
"The bowlers we have look fit and can bowl long spells. It's just that with a little more exposure, with a bit more games under their belt, they will have experience and will know more ways of getting the batsmen out. You don't always have to nick them to the slips or to the keeper. In a Test match, you can get them out in different positions, using the slower ball or the bouncer can work well."
Dhoni, though, was concerned about the bench strength of bowlers, especially with the amount of cricket India plays. "Overall, if we can have a bigger bench strength, which means if we can have a spectrum of around eight fast bowlers to pick from, it will be really great because we are not a side which plays three Tests a year," he said. "We play a lot of Tests, ODIs and with IPL also coming in, we need fast bowlers who are fit, which means you [need to] have eight to 10 fast bowlers whom you can rotate around and still play with your best bowling attack."
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo