Can we talk about the game? We have a game here tomorrow,” MS Dhoni finally said, having been probed yet again over the recent sweeping changes in the Indian team management at the pre-match presser in Bristol on Sunday.
It was the India captain’s first media interaction since the upheaval on Tuesday, and obviously that was the subject of most questions directed at him.
Among other things, the captain also said that he felt for Trevor Penney and Joe Dawes. “It’s a bit tough on Trevor and Joey. Especially when fielders drop catches and the fielding coach has to miss the series,” he said, with a hint of irony in the wry smile.
Dhoni will do well to conserve sympathy. Six months before the 2015 World Cup, the Indian cricket establishment seems have gone out of snooze-mode and straight into panic-mode. And if India do not manage to reverse the tide in the ODIs, there could be more chopping and changing in the offing.
The captain spoke about the Indian players aiming for ‘survival’ while playing Test matches abroad. They will perhaps be doing the same in the five-match one-day series that begins here on Monday. Between now and the World Cup, success won’t guarantee anything for many in the squad, but failure surely will.
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No wonder then that Dhoni wanted to talk not about the changes but about the cricket. The whole episode has begun to become distracting. And the team needs to devote all the focus and energy that it can summon to the job at hand.
The road to redemption begins at the County Ground, a rather unspectacular facility but one that has been effective for India in the past. Much like Dhoni himself. In their previous three outings here, India have won all three matches. On each of those occasions, they went on to score in the excess 300 — a fact that won’t be lost on their struggling batsmen.
But here is a more relevant stat. In India’s last 15 ODI matches, only once has the team scored more than 300 and only one of their batsmen, Virat Kohli, has reached the three-figure mark (twice). The fact that their most prolific run-getter has endured a torrid run in England could have further dented India’s confidence if not for the fact the batsman finally got a few runs under his belt in the practice match against Middlesex.
Another batsman who was among the runs that day was Ambati Rayudu. Rayudu replaced Suresh Raina during the ODI series in New Zealand, and while he has failed to set the stage alight in that time, the team management may like to persist with him owing to his 72-run knock at Lord’s on Friday.
Among others, opener Shikhar Dhawan, who was dropped during the Test series, would be itching to get into the same form that saw him play a pivotal role in India’s Champions Trophy-winning run in England last year. A triumph that India, too, would like to use to motivate themselves.
“The cricketers of this new generation feel hurt and disappointed when they don’t do well,” Dhoni insisted. “But at the same time they realise the importance of leaving a tough series behind them and taking the learnings from it. We have had the success. It’s just that we have to stand up, take responsibility, back each other up. Those things will in turn take us forward. It will change the tough times we have had to successful times.”