India captain says 20-over format is very tiring September 20, 2007

Yuvraj and I will be fit for semi-final - Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh hope to be fit for the semi-final clash against Australia © Getty Images

Mahendra Singh Dhoni was confident that both he and Yuvraj Singh would recover from their niggles and be fit for their semi-final against Australia on Saturday. Yuvraj missed the match against South Africa due to tendonitis in his left elbow, while Dhoni handed over the wicketkeeping gloves to Dinesh Karthik after hurting his back while batting, but both injuries, he said, were minor ones.

"I'm still smiling so I'll hopefully play the next match," Dhoni said after the match. "It was just a strain in the lower back, on the right hand side. I had the luxury of having Dinesh Karthik in the side, who is a specialist keeper. I didn't want to aggravate the injury. I think hopefully it will be fine before the next match."

He was optimistic about Yuvraj as well. "Yuvi has a bit of a problem with his forearm. Hopefully he should be ready for the next match as well."

Dhoni also said the decision to leave Yuvraj out of the side was taken just a few minutes before the match. "It was decided at the last moment. We wanted to assess his condition and see what exactly the situation was. We wanted to save him [for the rest of the season] - there is no point playing someone who is not fit just for the sake of the team, because throughout the year we play cricket. After this we play against Australia, Pakistan and then tour Australia. So I think the decision to rest him was a good one."

Dhoni admitted that despite the short duration of the game, the 20-over format was very tiring. "It's a very demanding form of game. It [an innings] lasts only an hour and 20 min but the intensity is more than an ODI or even a Test. A bowler only bowls four overs in this but he has to be alert in the field. You have to put in more than 100%. It's a very exhausting and tiring, and takes a heavy toll on the body."

Impressed with the young Rohit Sharma who scored a fifty in only his second Twenty20 international, Dhoni said: "It was amazing the way he batted. Dhoni said. "It is really tough for a guy who has been sitting out for a long time." Sharma was part of the one-day squad in England but did not play any of the seven matches. "Even though I did not get to play any matches in England, it was a great experience just being with the team," Sharma said. "The pitch was not easy to bat on. It was seaming a bit, so I decided not to play my shots initially. I just tried to bat normally."

Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, admitted that Sharma's last-ball six, with which he reached his fifty, proved more expensive than they had earlier thought.

Dhoni also praised his team's efforts in defending 153 and singled out RP Singh and Harbhajan Singh for lifting the team in the field. Singh rattled the top order and finished with excellent figures of 4 for 13 in four overs while Harbhajan picked up two wickets late in the chase and restricted South Africa to 116, ten short of the target which would have guaranteed a semi-final spot.

"I don't think we were 100% certain we would win when we went out to field, but those kind of efforts really charge you up," Dhoni said. "We were defending 153 against the home side and not many expected us to defend that target successfully. But every player gave more than 100%.

"RP has been wonderful throughout the England tour and here. Both he and Harbhajan have been outstanding. Today Harbhajan bowled well in the slog overs. I don't have to say much about him. He is a proven performer. RP too has proved himself,"

India and South Africa played back-to-back matches on Wednesday and Thursday, but the Indians have a break on Friday before the semi-finals.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo