Dhoni backs youngsters to succeed

Michael Clarke trudges disconsolately back to the dressing room after being stumped Getty Images

India captain MS Dhoni has backed the decision to rest key players for the one-day series against Australia, saying it gives a chance to blood younger players and add to the depth of the squad.

There are just 12 more ODIs before the World Cup, hosted jointly by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, gets underway in February next year, and Dhoni wants to make sure his first-choice players aren't hampered by fatigue or injury.

"In last few series, we have not played with our strongest side and rested most players. Maybe injuries were a bit more concern, we are a bit cautious," said Dhoni. "We don't want our big players to get injured before a tournament especially when it's happening in India. Hopeful everyone will get fit and for World Cup."

In the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, Shikhar Dhawan is set to make his debut at the top of the order. Dhoni played alongside Dhawan in the Challenger Trophy in 2005 and, having seen his game develop, is keen that he gets a chance at international level.

"Both of us scored in the Challengers in Mumbai. I got a chance to establish myself in the national team," Dhoni said. "There has been ups and downs in his [Shikhar] career but he has been quite consitent. As an opener it's quite tough, as you have Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir all at the same level. It's good that he got a chance finally. Hope he scores and the bench will become stronger."

Coming off a resounding success in the Test series Dhoni knows his younger ODI side has a difficult to task maintain the high standards.

"It will be a big learning curve for all youngsters. It's very important to live in the present. Small and basic things that needs to be done correctly to make a mark at the big level. I won't put extra pressure on them. Take one game at a time and give it your best shot."

While Dhoni can easily call for calm, his opposite-number Michael Clarke has a few worries after scoring just 35 runs from four innings in the 2-0 defeat in the Test series.

Clarke admitted that he was below-par but denied feeling any extra pressure ahead of the final three games of the ODI series. "My performance in the Test series wasn't good enough so I deserved that criticism and I am very disappointed about that," he said. "I am not at all under pressure. Everybody is entitled to voice their opinion. I can't change that. I'm training very hard as possibly as I can. I'm really excited about these two one-day games. My main priority is to win the two ODIs. We are really excited about the bright weather, hope it continues tomorrow."

The washed-out opening match at Kochi meant Doug Bollinger had a longer period to rest before the series got underway. Bollinger picked up an abdominal injury in the narrow defeat in the first Test and Clarke revealed that despite Bollinger's good progress, no decision had been made on whether he'll play.

"He is going well, though he has not done enough bowling. It's an important day for him today, he will have to bowl at the nets. Physio is happy with his improvement. But we need to make sure he bowls 10 overs for us tomorrow, otherwise I don't think it's worth a risk."