When Mahendra Singh Dhoni walked in for the pre-match press conference at the Green Park stadium, it seemed he had an idea what the journalists were going to ask. He took his chair and waited patiently for someone to pop that particular question. It came after a few routine ones and Dhoni’s face lit up the moment one of the reporters inquired about Ajinkya Rahane. It was like the skipper had rehearsed this particular part well and was eager to let it out of his system.
“Four is Rahane’s number. Even four is quite low for him I would say,” said Dhoni.
But the journalist who was expecting something more from the captain, especially after Dhoni’s chosen man Ambati Rayudu had a disappointing start to the series, pressed on. Dhoni seemed only ready to oblige.
“I think opening fits Rahane really well. Take the example of Rohit Sharma for that matter. In domestic cricket he bats middle-order but here he opens for us. Our openers more often than not are the ones who bat in the middle-order in first class cricket. So it is really tough for Rahane as of now. I am actually looking for someone to bat at No. 5 or 6 and I believe he is not the person. His strength is top of the order as he is more flamboyant when he has time at hand and a bit of field restrictions. No doubt, he capitalizes later. So if given a chance, we will try to feature him in the top three and if not then we would find it tough to include him in the side,” Dhoni said.
By saying this, it could be inferred that the skipper is looking to persist with the same set of batsmen he played in the T20s.
After ruling out Rahane from the three options lower down (the other two being Rayudu and Raina), it can also be said that Dhoni wants players who could up the ante in the slog overs. “If you are talking about that slot, you can’t pick one depending on the T20 performance. You don’t get to play the way you are supposed to play in an ODI. Even if they would have played, it would be difficult for us to pick one amongst three for ODIs,” he said. This clearly means that despite Rayudu getting out cheaply, Dhoni holds a different opinion about the Baroda batsman as an ODI player.
Dhoni also hinted at going in with three specialist spinners considering that the Kanpur pitch will offer some help for the tweakers later on. “They have watered it a bit. It is still a little soft. But it will be different by the time the match starts. This is one venue where we can play three spinners. We will have to see how dry the pitch is and are there any chances of breaking up. Definitely there won’t be dew, so three-spinner option is available for us,” he said.
The skipper, meanwhile, sounded reluctant in availing the services of pacer Umesh Yadav. “We have emphasized a lot on pace but what is important is consistency,” Dhoni said. To further bolster his statement, he spent a lot of time guiding both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma on how and where he expects them to bowl against the Proteas.