Haven’t spoken to BCCI about NZ ODIs: Dhoni

Margao: India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Saturday gave a new spin on the issue of some top players skipping the upcoming ODI series against New Zealand in order to prepare for the tougher outing in South Africa, by saying no communication has been sent from the players’ side to the Cricket Board.

“Not done (written to the Board) anything like that as of now. No confirmation has been sent from the players’ side to the BCCI yet and nothing has been received from the BCCI either. This is what I have to say,” said Dhoni at the mandatory press conference ahead of Sunday’s third and the final ODI against Australia which is threatened by rains.

He was replying to a query on reports quoting BCCI sources that some top players, including Dhoni, will not play the five-match ODI series against New Zealand after the three-Test rubber against the same opponents and, instead, jet off to South Africa to get more acclimatisation time for the Test rubber against the Proteas.

India have not won a Test rubber in South Africa and are currently the world’s number one Test side.

Dhoni said that all these things can be kept on the back burner as the team was looking at Sunday’s clash against Australia which, if the hosts win, would close out the three-match series 2-0 in their favour and provide India with their first ODI series win at home against the formidable opponents in more than two decades.

“Tomorrow’s game is more important to us right now rather than thinking about what to do after the New Zealand series. As I always say, I don’t think too much about the future. After that (ODI series v Australia) what is important is the utilisation of the 4-5 days’ break that we have got, then concentrate on the Test series (v NZ).

“And after that if we get some time we will see what can be done and what needs to be done,” Dhoni said.

The India captain conceded that the home team’s bowling in the end overs of the 50-over games is not a matter of recent concern but has been bothering them for over the last 18 months.

“The last ten overs have always been a big concern for us. It’s not a worry we have had (only) over the last 2 or 3 months. We have been bothered by the last ten overs for a long time now - 1 to 1 and 1/2 years. We had done well in between but have not been really consistent. It’s still an area where we can definitely improve,” Dhoni said.

Saving those last 20-30 runs could be crucial when the team is chasing an imposing target like the 290 set by Australia in the second ODI at Visakhapatnam, Dhoni pointed out.

“The end result can depend on those last five overs. If you give 20-25 extra runs, it becomes really difficult when you are chasing a total like 290-odd runs as you have to score at six an over right from the start. A few bowlers bowl a few good overs and the rate keeps on mounting,” Dhoni said, adding the team had not achieved the desired result despite trying hard.

“It’s an area we need to improve. We are putting in a lot of effort but haven’t achieved the desired result. We have not been consistent with it,” he added.

On Sunday’s match, Dhoni said the crucial factor would be to keep oneself motivated especially with the inclement weather here.

“When you are representing the country, there’s no need to motivate yourself. I think your focus will shift a bit if it’s raining so much. It’s been raining from 8:15 this morning. We were to leave (for practise) by 9, then by 11 and now it’s 2 0’clock. It’s important to be focused,” he said.

Dhoni said in-form Suresh Raina, who played a blistering knock of 71 not out in Visakhapatnam, forms a vital cog in the Indian team as he has the ability to score at a brisk rate, field brilliantly and also bowl a few overs of spin.

“The important thing is the great rate at which he’s been scoring runs. More often than not he scores at a brisk pace. He’s been like a floater for us, batting at no. 5 and 6 depending on the situation. He’s also a very good fielder. It’s always good to have excellent fielders in the team. Also he can bowl a bit,” the India skipper said.

“This side has Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina (as part time bowlers). Virat Kohli can also bowl a bit. If we are playing with four bowlers then Virat’s role becomes very important because you have to see if somebody has an off day and look at the next available bowler.

“He (Raina) has done a good job for us wherever he bats. It’s a very good sign for us and let’s hope he keeps scoring,” Dhoni added.

Dhoni advised the younger batsmen in the side to play to their strength initially, which had brought them into the team at the first place and go for shots irrespective of the format of the game if the ball is in the area to be hit.

“You have to play your brand of cricket. That’s what is important, especially for the youngsters. Till you (youngsters) cement your place in the side you should be playing (in similar fashion) because of which you are part of the side,” he said.

“Changing gears is important when it comes to switching the format. But at the same time you have to be aware of the opportunities that you have in T20s, ODIs and Test cricket, which are completely different,” said Dhoni.

“You just need to change your approach a bit. As an international cricketer you know your strengths and weaknesses and if the ball is in your area it does not matter what format it is, you should always go for the runs. Switching is more of a mental aspect. (It’s) equally tough switching from Tests to ODIs or ODIs to Tests as both formats are demanding.”

Dhoni felt that the team had done very well in the competition against Australia and hoped Sunday’s game would take place despite the amount of rain that has fallen here.

“I personally feel we have done well. In the Test series not only the batsmen and bowlers the part timers (too) contributed. Lower-order batsmen stood (at the wicket) when needed. Youngsters grabbed at the opportunity thrown to them.

“Three-match ODI series is not good enough, but at the same time we tried to get the most out of it. The first game was a wash out, second game we won and hopefully the third game will happen,” he said.

Dhoni also ruled out the chance of his moving up the order to bat at no. 3, where he had done exceedingly well, till some new batsmen are groomed to take the position at no. 5 or 6 and show enough capacity to finish the game.

“At no. 3 I have done decently well. If you have people who can do the job up the order I would rather bat down the order at no 5 or 6. Especially in this side there are plenty of players who can do what I have done at no. 3 but batting at no 5 or 6 needs a bit more experience to finish the game.

“May be if somebody gets groomed and analyses the game very well and is able to bat at no. 5 and 6 and closes the game more often than not, may be, I will try before it gets too late to bat at no. 3,” he concluded.