Dhoni goes on backfoot

India captain feels team is in ‘tougher group’ but has enough experience.

MS Dhoni - In the spotlight

Dhaka:
The usual long explanations in his replies at press conferences were missing on Friday, but that did not prevent India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni from admitting that his team was placed in the “tougher group” of the World T20 that begins on Sunday.

That was probably why he said that every team that India play is a “worthy opponent”. India are placed in the tougher of the two groups in the second round (seeded teams don’t play in the first round) along with Pakistan, Australia, West Indies and a qualifier from the first round.

Dhoni backs under-achieving bowlers

India, champions in the first edition of World T20 in 2007 under Dhoni’s leadership, have failed to make it to the semi-finals in all three subsequent tournaments.

Dhoni’s team is short on experience of playing T20 Internationals when compared to the other top teams in the fray here. Possibly India’s first match against Pakistan would give a good indication where Dhoni’s boys would be headed.

“We are not targeting only the first match, but all the matches. Our group is difficult, so all the matches will be important,” Dhoni said.

Dhoni pointed out that India failed to progress to the semi-finals in the previous World T20 in 2012 after being edged out on net run rate. “...when you consider our performance in the last edition of the World T20 where we exited from the tournament after losing just one game...,” said the captain-wicket-keeper who missed the Asia Cup due to a side strain.

Experience holds the key in the shortest format too, and Dhoni tried hard to defend that weak link in his players. He, however, said they have gained experience by playing in the IPL.

“Most of the teams don’t play a lot of T20s -- especially with the kind of schedule we have, I don’t think we’ll be able to accommodate more than one or two T20s,” he said.

“At the same time, we have got the IPL where we have played with the best players and the standard there is as high as international level, so that really amounts to the experience we need.”

Dhoni indicated that he and his team would try to make the most of the two warm-up matches, against Sri Lanka on Monday and against England on Wednesday, before the all-important clash with Pakistan on Friday.

Dhoni spent most of the time during his brief press conference by defending his team’s poor performances across formats.

“We have had to endure tough times recently, but even in these situations it’s not like we hadn’t played good cricket. If you look at our Test performances away from home since 2011 you will see that our displays haven’t been up to the mark,” he offered. “ I think we are on the way up, and that’s where you want to be.”

[FLASHBACK] When the Eden crowd shamed Indian cricket

13 March 1996: Fires burn in the stands during the semi-final in the Cricket World Cup between India and Sri Lanka played at Eden Gardens in Calcutta. (Ross Kinnaird/ALLSPORT)
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Wed 12 Mar, 2014 6:30 PM IST