Colombo: India’s World T20 campaign begins on a not-so-difficult test (on paper, that is), when they take on Afghanistan, at the Premadasa, on Wednesday.
Having tasted both success and failure in the lead-up to the tournament, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is treading cautiously. At the pre-match media conference, a candid Dhoni even admitted that the his bowling attack is a “bit of a concern”.
The following are excerpts
On the preparation
I think we are going good... Yes, we won and lost one (in the warm-up games), but overall, it gave some exposure to some of our bowlers. As far as batting is concerned, in the first match, it was a partnership between me and Rohit that brought us back into the game. Also, it was good to see the way the batsmen batted in the second warm-up tie. We don’t rate any side lightly, be it Afghanistan or any other side... This is a format where anyone can beat any other side and so it is important to be focussed, not be overconfident and get the most out of the game.
If bowling is a bit of concern
Bowling has always been a bit of a concern … If you compare our batting to our bowling, the bowling is slightly weaker than the batting… But still we have got experienced bowlers who can do the needful. We also have the part-timers… We are looking to play with seven batsmen to start off the tournament. It means that the part-timers will have to do a really good job. If we still find that our bowling line-up is a bit weak, we will have to go with six batters and five bowlers.
Bowling in the death overs
It has been a bit of a concern… We have done well, but we have not been very consistent… It is a bit of a worry but the fast bowlers are putting in a bit more effort to get into the groove. In this format, if you have the variation, you can go all out and still do well. I think the bowlers will shape up well. They will try different strategies and different field settings so that it can complement their style of bowling.
On the ideal bowling attack
Three fast bowlers, one spinner and a few part-timers… But as I said, it depends on the wicket, what kind of part-timers suit the role and where you are playing… If you are playing in India, on slow wickets, the part-timers get into the role really well. It depends how exactly the wicket is behaving and so, depending on different venues, the attacks will be different.
On why he prefers a seven-four line-up if the bowling is weak
If you see our batting, it’s not like we are playing with seven batsmen only now … I think we have done that for many years. There were instances in the middle where we played with six batsmen in the 50-over format. If you see, our batting line-up, there are quite a few players who like to go and express themselves which means they may take the bowlers on right from the very first or second delivery… That means they would like to have the cushion of that extra batsman.
On what he thinks would be the ideal total on the Sri Lankan wickets
It depends on the wicket… If the wicket is very flat and quite hard, it means we will have to score in excess of 160 or 170… But if it is a normal Lankan wicket, 160 can also be a very good score. For us, what is important is to not go in with a fixed score in mind. We will look to get off to a good start and alter the maximum score that we can achieve every five-ten overs.
His thoughts on Yuvraj’s comeback at the big stage
Not worried about what has happened in the past, and the future which is a bit uncertain... What is important is what we are doing right now, that is what will have a big impact on what will happen in the future. I think he put in a big fight. He looks fit, especially for this format, the shortest format. He is not 100 per cent fit for Test cricket right now, but he is fully fit for this format.
His persistence with Rohit Sharma
His T20 record is really well… In the IPL, and even in the last World T20, he batted really well. He is someone who can get a lot more scores. Of course, he needs to give himself a bit more time and I felt that in the two practice games, he gave himself a bit of time
If he plans to bat up the order
It looks very unlikely… What we need to see is which batsman suits which position. Virat (Kohli) is someone who should bat at No.3, which means after that there is Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma. These are the people who need to get in and maybe I will take over the slog opportunity, go in and play big shorts right from the very first ball. That can be the most likely scenario, but it might change depending on the situation.