Raina and Yuvraj major boosts - Dhoni
Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh's performances in the practice matches were major boosts for India ahead of the World T20, MS Dhoni has said. Yuvraj was left out for the tour of New Zealand while Raina was dropped midway through that series. Both players were also ignored for the Asia Cup. While Dhoni pointed out bowling as the familiar area of concern, he said he was happy with what India had taken out of the warm-ups.
"Overall we have achieved a lot, especially through the practice games we wanted to give the guys who were not part of the Asia Cup a fair time in the middle and I was quite happy with the way Yuvraj and Raina performed," Dhoni said. "They batted well. Raina has also contributed with his bowling. Whatever we wanted to achieve from the practice games we have achieved that. It looks set but still there are quite a few areas where we will have to improve when it comes to a proper game because you won't really have the luxury of playing 15 players.
"The bowling department is still an area of concern if you compare it to our batting. Getting off to a good start, that is something that is really important for us. If we have wickets in hand we have seen in the past that we can score maybe 10-15 runs more than what can be a par score. In a short format like this, 10-15 runs really matter. Apart from that, the fielding has been good. Overall if we do well in the death bowling and bat well throughout we have a very good chance."
Three of the four fast bowlers in the India squad have never played a T20 international while Bhuvneshwar Kumar has featured in only three. Dhoni thought their exposure in the IPL would be of assistance, and said he wanted them to strike with the new ball. "If you talk about international T20s, our fast bowlers have not played much. But they have spent a lot of time in the IPL where the conditions are a bit similar so I think to some extent that will help.
"Overall when it comes to contribution, we would want them to bowl well with the new ball. If we can get one-two wickets with the new ball, it is considered a good start. Especially in this format if you keep getting regular wickets, the opposition is not able to score too freely. We will try to take wickets with the new ball and then they will come on and bowl the last few overs maybe, so not very different from what the job is for the fast bowlers for some of the other teams."
Dhoni said every match would be crucial to India's chances in the World T20, as they had failed to make the semi-finals of the previous edition in 2012 after losing just one match, to Australia. "What is important is to do well in each and every game. Last T20 World Cup we lost just one game in the qualifying round and were not able to make it to the knockout stages. Especially our group, it is a tough group. "
When asked how he would manage to focus on his own performance and that of his side amid the allegations against him swirling around in parts of the media back home, Dhoni said it was "part and parcel" of Indian cricket. "You have to keep your focus. Especially when you are part of the Indian cricket team, there are plenty of things that go around you so irrespective of whether you are doing well or not so well on the field, so I think it is a big part and parcel of Indian cricket. I think most of the players are quite used to it."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo