It’s that time of a cricket tour when teams generally start thinking about home. And focusing on their job at hand becomes slightly more difficult than usual. This is not to say that there will be any lack of intensity once the Indian team steps on to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Sunday evening. They have enough incentive to go all-out.
Having sealed the T20 series with wins in Adelaide and Melbourne, MS Dhoni’s men have the opportunity to aim for a clean-sweep. Not to forget what that result will ensure – a 4-4 score-line between the two sides across both limited-over formats, meaning a successful tour, which didn’t seem the case as India trailed 0-4 in the ODIs. And anyway having spent close to four months Down Under only a year ago, it’s unlikely that four weeks would have resulted in much home-sickness for Dhoni & Co.
What the last week has also done is make sure that the Indian team for once return home from Australia with a number of positives, and not just the sour taste of defeat. And with the World T20 just around the corner, Dhoni can retrospect with a smile on his face, knowing that his team has been comprehensive in their thrashing of the hosts in the shortest format.
For starters, the first two matches of the T20 series have more or less given the Indian captain a clear picture of what his team will be, or should be, come the world event. He will of course have three T20s at home against Sri Lanka and an Asia Cup in Bangladesh to further nail down his World T20 squad.
But at the moment, you feel like he’s in a good space, with more slots in the line-up looking cemented than not.
But when asked about whether he had indeed hit upon the right combination in the lead-up to the mega event, Dhoni was his usually reticent self, preferring to not commit on a definitive answer. He instead spoke about how the conditions in Australia will not be the kind his team will encounter in their backyards during the World T20.
“There will be a few changes that will be made for the 15 because that won’t be like a bilateral series where you can pick 16 or 17 players, so you have to see from the utility point of view who you want to keep in the side. You can’t have the luxury of keeping someone saying, ‘If something happens then this individual will replace someone’. You need more players who can come into the team in more situations, if something happens like that. If you have people who are just looking to replace one individual, it will be difficult,” he said.
The T20 series has seen a number of high-profile comebacks in the Indian team. But while Ashish Nehra has been his wily self with the new-ball, Yuvraj Singh hasn’t got a look-in with the bat owing to the sensational form of the top-order. And there has been talk about whether the veteran left-hander will get a promotion along with all-rounder Hardik Pandya for the final match, just to give them both some exposure. But Dhoni dismissed the idea and didn’t seem too keen on experimenting with the batting-order that has served his team so well.
“Yes we want to see what Yuvraj will do in batting, what Hardik can do – but where is the opportunity? We can’t make them open. Virat is batting very well at No.3. And if a partnership goes on, and it’s the 15th or the 16th over, then it’s my time to come in and play the big shot,” explained Dhoni.
However, like he’s done in the past, Dhoni did go on to reiterate that the presence of Yuvraj was a great boost, considering the added bite he provides to the bowling attack with his left-arm slow bowling. During the second T20, it was Yuvraj incidentally who got the big wicket of Glenn Maxwell in the two overs he got to bowl.
As it turned out, Pandya also chipped in with a crucial scalp, getting rid of BBL star Chris Lynn. The wiry Baroda all-rounder does seem the right fit at the moment for Dhoni, and he’s shown his value-add with both ball and in the field. But the Indian team management will be keen to see him show his wares with the bat. But Pandya might have to wait his time for that.
And speaking of waiting, Harbhajan Singh will be itching to get a go too but it will be interesting to see whether Dhoni decides to tinker with his spin-attack-led by R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja-which has played a massive role in India’s indomitable lead in the series as the tour rolls into the final day.
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