Looking Aheadhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/looking-ahead-10/

Looking Ahead

Nothing to seems to rattle captain MS Dhoni.

Be it the inexperienced batsmen,the prospect of playing in the most difficult conditions they have encountered recently,filling the void left by the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar or India’s dismal form away from home — nothing seems to rattle Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

True to his image,the India captain personified calmness as he addressed the media before the squad departed for the short,yet significant,tour of South Africa on Sunday night. India are scheduled to play three ODIs,starting December 5 in Johannesburg,and two Tests during their month-long trip.

As India prepare to get used to life after Tendulkar,Dhoni jokingly said he wished the No. 4 position be omitted from the squad,insisting he was still unsure about who would walk out to bat at that position.

“If possible,we will omit the No. 4 position. Our batting order will be like one,two,three,five,six,seven and then we’ll play till 12,” he laughed,before quickly adding: “Whoever bats in that slot,we should not pressurise that individual by saying he is replacing Sachin Tendulkar. There is no replacing anyone. As of now,we haven’t decided who will bat at No. 4.”

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Dhoni said they were looking forward to a ‘new’ start in the post-Tendulkar era. There have been suggestions that,based on their recent form,Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are the most likely candidates to come in at two-down. Sharma has had a dream start to his Test career after he,coming in at No. 6,scored back-to-back centuries against the West Indies.

This might be one of the most inexperienced Indian teams for an overseas tour: Shikhar Dhawan,Sharma,Kohli,Ajinkya Rahane,Ravindra Jadeja,Ravichandran Ashwin,Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami have not played a Test in South Africa. With no seniors to guide them,Dhoni said the team was looking forward to a ‘new start’ in the post-Tendulkar era. He allayed fears of failure,saying even ‘Tendulkar,at some point,played his first Test.’

Looking ahead

Regarding the team composition in South Africa,he said: “It’s something that we have to go there and decide. We have to see the strength of our batting line-up. At the same time,we have to find out whether four bowlers are good enough to get the opposition out. In the last two Test matches,we played with four bowlers and Rohit was the one who batted at No. 6. The No. 6 batsman has had a lot of impact on the game.”

India’s most successful Test captain was in no illusions over the challenge that awaits his side. He hoped the sequence of the series (ODIs,tour game and then the Tests) would help them acclimatise by the time the Test series arrived.

“I think it is always a challenge when you go and play abroad. You are competing against the home team and they know the conditions well. Their fast bowlers always know which length to bowl and also the areas in which they need to bowl. I feel the batsmen will have to quickly adjust to the bounce,” he said. “Of course,starting with the ODIs is always a help. When you play the shots,you get rid of nerves. They will be carrying it forward into the Test matches as well. There won’t be too many changes when you compare the Test squad to the ODI squad.”