Bangar hails Dhoni's mentoring skills
On Wednesday, MS Dhoni captained India for the 324th time in international cricket, and joined Ricky Ponting on top of the global list. That is a lot of experience, and Sanjay Bangar, India's interim head coach, has said Dhoni went out of the way to share it with his young and inexperienced squad over the course of this Zimbabwe tour.
"I definitely felt that he opened up quite a bit," Bangar said, after India won the third T20I by three runs to wrap up the series 2-1. "He had a lot of interactions with the players. He made that effort to go out and mingle with them, he probably invited them for dinners and they [spent time] over Playstations together.
"He went out of the way to make them comfortable, shared his experience with the younger guys, probably emphasised on the value of how to handle pressure, under match situations what are the things that are required to be done. So I think those were enormous learnings.
"What he also did fantastically was he passed on the tradition of Indian cricket, because these younger lot are the future of Indian cricket, and the way he shared his experience was very, very similar to how the earlier generation used to pass on the knowledge and the experience and just make a younger player comfortable in the dressing room, so he made all that effort and it was great to see."
India batted first for the first time on the tour, and were tested by Zimbabwe's bowlers on a slow, low Harare surface. They eventually posted 138, thanks in large part to Kedar Jadhav's maiden T20I half-century. Bangar was pleased with how Jadhav - who only got to bat twice in six matches on this tour - has grabbed his opportunities, mentioning his ODI century on India's previous visit in 2015 as another example.
"The last time he played for India, probably it was again a year ago, he got a hundred in the series," Bangar said. "He didn't get too many opportunities in this series, this was only the second time that he could go out and bat, and he played an amazing innings, because he was having some issues.
"As he went in, he wasn't feeling too good, but he hung in and fought through, and the kind of innings he produced on a difficult wicket, I felt that showed the quality of the player, so he's doing all that he can in the opportunities that he's getting.
At 31, Jadhav is the second-oldest player in India's squad behind Dhoni, but Bangar felt that shouldn't prevent him from having a sizeable international career.
"Age doesn't really matter because, nowadays, most of the guys are keeping themselves very fit, they have fantastic work discipline," he said. "It's just a matter of some individual getting a couple of opportunities simultaneously, and consecutively, so that he feels comfortable in match situations. These are quality players and they're bound to come good."
Bangar made special mention of Axar Patel for his consistency with the ball and also his finishing skills down the order. Axar was India's most economical bowler in the ODI series, conceding only 2.32 runs an over in three matches, and his left-arm spin was just as frugal in the T20Is, as his economy rate of 4.91 suggested. He only got to bat twice on the tour, both times in the T20I series, and scored 38 runs off just 20 balls. He played a key role in India's narrow win in the third T20I, scoring an unbeaten 20 off 11 balls and conceding only 18 in his four overs while dismissing Hamilton Masakadza.
"I think not only today, but throughout the series, he kept the pressure on," Bangar said. "Probably, he was our most economical bowler. I don't really know the exact stat, but he was very, very consistent. He maintained that pressure throughout, and not only his bowling, but generally, the way he fielded, a couple of catches that he took, and the way he finishes the innings. He got an opportunity in two T20s, the first and the third game, and he is proving to be a very good developing player at No. 7 or No. 8, who is capable of hitting the big shots. That's really encouraging for Indian cricket."