We just can`t focus on Mahela or Sangakkara: MS Dhoni
Cardiff: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni rated Sri Lanka as "a dangerous team" ahead of their ICC Champions Trophy semifinal here on Thursday, saying they were not just focussing on "a Mahela Jayawardene or a Kumar Sangakkara".
Tomorrow`s semifinal will be the fifth meeting between India and Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom. Except for the shock defeat in the 1979 World Cup, India have easily won the remaining four. But Dhoni is taking nothing for granted.
"Sri Lanka are a dangerous squad. We just can`t focus on a Mahela (Jayawardene) or a (Kumar) Sangakkara. We have to think of the entire team," Dhoni told reporters after a training session today.
Dhoni said there was no pressure on the Indian team to win the championship.
"It`s the Indian media that creates all this hype (after the recent BCCI controversies back home) and then asks me questions. As far as we are concerned, we have to play good cricket, we are working hard and just proving ourselves."
The Indian captain has been quite selective in dealing with the press during the Champions Trophy.
Except mandatory ICC briefings, the Indian Cricket Board`s (BCCI) media policies have made Dhoni hard to get.
Rain could play spoilsport during the second semifinal at the Sophia Cardens here and if the match is washed out, India will go through to the final in Birmingham on June 23 for having topped their group.
Equal on points, but due to an inferior run-rate, the Lankans finished at the second spot behind England in group A.
Dhoni is not thinking about a washout and said the team was planning as it would normally do before every game.
"Of course, the teams know each other so well that we can save those extra 10-15 minutes strategising in team meetings," he said tongue-in-cheek.
The Indian captain said his boys were not too wary about the dangerous Lasith Malinga.
"We play each other a lot in the IPL and understand him better. He reverses the ball very well in the sub-continent but we are okay with him. He always remains a dangerous bowler," said Dhoni.
Dhoni said India`s success so far in the Champions Trophy, where they are unbeaten in five games including two warm-up games, was also due to some excellent work by the back-up team.
The skipper said the presence of Duncan Fletcher (coach), Trevor Penney (fielding coach) and Joe Dawes (bowling coach) have helped him concentrate on other team details.
Asked if the team was looking to tie up any particular loose end before tomorrow's semifinal, Dhoni said, "We'll have to see what strength we are really looking for against a particular opposition. Ishant is someone who gets a decent amount of bounce, who is tall and can have a big impact, especially in the middle overs once the ball gets slightly old. I think on and off each and every one will have a few games where they'll go for runs.
"Umesh had a bad game, then Ishant had a bad game. So I think it's important to keep backing the guys and also the fact that they learn a lot out of these games."
India and Sri Lanka had faced each other in the 2011 World Cup final, which the Indians won, but Dhoni feels that match could not be taken as a reference point.
"Even if both the teams were the same, there have been a significant amount of changes that have been made to the format, quite a few rules and regulations. So I don't think we can really count on all those stats. So I think it's very different. I think Sri Lanka, they are a really good squad. They are going through a phase where they are missing some of their players. So I think it's important for both the teams to do well, and I think they're a very good team," he explained.
Dhoni had faced a lot of criticism in Australia last year when he tried making some changes in the playing XI and get some youngsters in to have a positive impact on the fielding. But here he has been praised for using exactly the same thing.
"I think it's important not to react because that's what people are looking for. You have to be honest to yourself as to what needs to be done when it comes to looking into the future and making a good team as fielding I feel is very important, especially nowadays.
"If the opposition is scoring 250-odd runs, and if you have saved those 15 or 20 runs, it can have a big impact on the game. This was one aspect which was quite missing when it came to Indian cricket. For us it was more about the batting and the bowling aspect, which meant the skill of fielding was slightly missing. We still had good fielders, but the problem is when you don't have too many good fielders, you can't use them at too many places."