Dhoni tips Tiwary to make debut in series

Saurabh Tiwary starred with a half-century Indian Premier League

Saurabh Tiwary, the middle-order batsman who played for Mumbai Indians, will make his ODI debut during the three-match series against Australia that starts in Kochi on Sunday, India captain MS Dhoni has said. Tiwary has been part of India's one-day squad since June and Dhoni said the time has come to give him the opportunity to prove himself.

"He has got exposure against the best bowlers in the IPL and CL T20. I think it is an ideal opportunity for us to give him a place in the final XI and let him play the kind of cricket he plays."

Dhoni said Tiwary was ideally suited to bat at six or seven, where he could go after the bowlers. "He backs himself and he is hard working and spends his time at net sessions. He is good character to have. With proper guidance and with little more exposure to international cricket, he can be really successful."

Tiwary, 20, served notice in the 2009 Ranji Trophy, where he scored three centuries in five games at an average of 98.83 for Jharkhand in the Plate League. During the third season of the IPL he emerged as the poster-boy of Mumbai's young and dynamic middle-order, hitting 419 runs with three fifties as his team made the finals of the tournament.

When Tiwary does make his debut, he will be only the second cricketer from the central Indian state of Jharkhand to play for India, after Dhoni. "It is slightly tougher for a player to come from a small state and represent your country," Dhoni said. "It is not a restriction anymore because most of cricket played in India is covered by media in a beautiful manner and selectors will notice."

Dhoni confirmed that M Vijay will open the innings in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, but was non-committal on whether Yuvraj Singh would play, saying "you will have to wait and watch". It is unlikely that Yuvraj will be left out though, as India is already missing three of their senior-most batsmen.

Allrounder Ravindra Jadeja, who has received plenty of support from Dhoni in the past, however, needs to perform better if he is to cement his place in the team for the World Cup. Dhoni said a few places are still up for grabs, including one for a fast bowler and another for either an allrounder or a big-hitting lower-order batsman.

"When he [Jadeja] came to the side, he was more of a batsman than a bowler. But in the last few seasons he has really done well with the ball. He has not so far contributed well with the bat. For a player like him, he has to contribute with both.

"More often than not, we tend to play with four bowlers and one part-timer who can contribute. We still want to keep it the same - with that someone coming down the order at No. 7."

Australia has won every one-day series in India since 1998, but both sides are without some of their first-choice players and Australia captain Michael Clarke expects an even contest. "I think the opposition we are playing is very tough, especially in Indian conditions, but I am confident that if we play to our best, we will win the series. As I said earlier this series is going to be fought evenly."