The emphatic triumph over Sri Lanka giving a perfect start to their World Twenty20 build-up, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said his side will be one of the top contenders at the showpiece even though some top batsmen are yet to get enough time in the middle.
Due to India’s deep batting, not all the batsmen have got enough runs and overs under their belt in the last six T20 matches.
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Dhoni himself and comeback-man Yuvraj Singh have hardly spent time in the middle both in the series against Australia and Sri Lanka.
“Everybody has not got the chance to bat. But you will keep facing this problem because our batting line-up is deep. We will have to try and give bating to players, who have not batted so far but people who are batting close to 6, 7 or 8, they will have to play big shots because that is going to be certainly be very important for us,” Dhoni said after series-clinching nine-wicket win against Sri Lanka in Visakhapatnam on Sunday.
“It’s not how many runs you have scored at that time but may be if you are facing only 3-4 balls and you can get 10-15 runs, that will be a real benefit,” he said.
Dhoni said familiar conditions at home is also a comforting factor for them for the World Twenty20 starting March 8.
“We are always a top contender when it comes to the shorter format. Also the World Cup being held in India, the spinners will come into action and that gives us added benefit and also the exposure of playing IPL over here. Out of eight seasons we have played seven here and all of that will count,” he said.
The Indian captain said the key will be to get the dangerous batsmen in the opposition out early.
“What the shortest format does is that it narrows down the difference between two teams. You have to keep the big hitters (of rival team) out of the game. Also in a knockout game you have to be at your best, you can’t have an off day because once the knockout stage starts, it’s more like lottery cricket, I feel more consistent to be important.”
Dhoni said it was helpful to have someone like Jasprit Bumrah in the side, who can bowl yorkers in the death overs and give the team an option to hand the ball to someone like Ashwin early. But he said identifying death bowlers in the 50-over format was more crucial than in T20s.
“It does, but usually you would keep two overs of someone like Bumrah or Ashish Nehra for the death overs. In 50 overs you have to be more careful, you have to keep 2-3 overs of the spinner if the death over bowler is not bowling well, you have to bring him in. What it does, you end up not using a bowler or spinner.
“It’s something that will always trouble us till we are certain that these are the set of bowlers who will bowl in death for us. In this format it is matter of one bowler. In 50 overs, if you have certain bowlers who are your death bowlers, it gives you the liberty to use other people in between the overs,” Dhoni said.
The Indian captain was pleased with the fact that “all of his bowlers have got a chance to bowl” going into the World T20.
“Overall, everyone has got to bowl, which is a good thing. In the last here games everyone has gone for runs a bit, be it spinners or fast bowlers, which means they were under pressure at some point of time, that’s a good thing. Overall we are looking good.”
Talking about Ashwin, whose four-wicket haul while opening the attack, set up the Indian win, Dhoni said he was “pick of the bowlers” in the series.
“When it comes to giving him the new ball, he flights the ball and asks the batsman to step out and play the big shot. In this format it is crucial. At times you tend to bowl flat but he is somebody who mixes it well. He gives us that liberty to use fast bowlers in the middle especially when we have just two fast bowlers,” he said.
But Dhoni said it is not “something they will keep doing throughout.”
“In the coming games we will see the conditions. Also what gives me that option is having Suresh Raina in the mix. You have literally two proper off-spinners, especially when it is turning, and you have two left-arm spinners in (Ravindra) Jadeja and Yuvraj Singh in the XI so even if one of them has to bowl upfront it doesn’t really matter because the others can do the job.”
Dhoni said he knows more or less what the playing XI would be in World T20 and “it is not difficult” to see who Virat Kohli will replace when he comes back in the side.