Colombo: India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni experimented with new players and also altered the batting line-up by resting ey personnel against England, so he was understandably delighted after those he brought in helped secure a huge win over England.
Dhoni spoke at length about the likely impact of his team’s creditable showing and their prospects in the Twenty20 World Cup.
Q: Now that there are players who were on the bench previously who played well against England, are you faced with a problem of plenty, unable to decide on who to drop for the next match?
A: Yes, I am faced with a problem of plenty. But I can assure you, a problem of plenty is better than anyone at all to come in. It will be a difficult decision as to who we will drop to play the seventh batsman. Our middle order has done well and the two openers we have are the best in the world and can win matches on their own. Gautam [Gambhir] did really well in this particular game. It will be a difficult decision, but as of now I don’t know what to do and I will try and do what is best for the side.
Q: So after a not very impressive performance against Afghanistan, this performance must have been very pleasing?
A: The performance was good today. If you compare this match with the one against Afghanistan, we improved a bit in this game. But bigger teams await us and we need to be consistent. In every match we have to be at our best. I think it looks good, it feels good. Hopefully we will do well in the next three matches in the Super Eights, too.
Q: You promoted Rohit Sharma and also yourself above Yuvraj Singh. Why did you do that when Yuvraj is more experienced?
A: I personally rate him [Rohit Sharma] very highly. That doesn’t mean I don’t rate Yuvraj highly, but I promoted Rohit. I think he is someone who can play all different kinds of strokes right from the very start. Especially in this format, he is one of the most successful batsmen along with Suresh Raina. He is someone who has been quite consistent when it comes to the T20 format. He can play in different gears. If necessary he can accelerate and can play big strokes, and he also runs well at the same time. Our strength is to play big shots, which means wickets in hand are very crucial for us. The first 10 overs are critical. If we don’t lose too many wickets and we are on 70-75 runs, then that is the ideal platform for the batsmen coming in to come and play the big shots. Rohit is taking up the responsibility really well. What will come in the next few games, I don’t really know because we have a strategy and we send in batsmen accordingly. If the conditions remain the same, you may see him bat at the same slot.
Q: Are your happy that Gautam Gambhir is playing well and showed his skills in the match against England?
A: He [Gambhir] is one of our key players. His importance in the side is critical. He is someone who is quite aggressive by nature. He is someone who has struggled a lot to get into the Indian side, so I feel today’s innings will help him a lot. He paced his innings really well. He had a lean patch in the last few games, but innings like these help a lot. Once you get those 30- or 40- or 50-odd runs, all of a sudden you are a changed batsman. His responsibility is to take his innings through. He can be aggressive against the spinners, we all know he is one of the best players of spin we have. The rest of our batsmen can play around him. His performance was very important today and I can only see it improving in the next stage of the tournament.
Q: Your bowling has come in for heavy criticism, but how does it feel after having bowled out England for 80 runs?
A: Confidence is something that’s very important, especially for our bowlers. Once they get confidence, they execute their plans really well. It was very important that the five bowlers who played did really well. I think they responded well. They started off tentatively but, as the game progressed, they got better and better. Piyush [Chawla] bowled really well; he has got a brilliant wrong ‘un. If the batsmen commit a mistake, he has very good chances of getting them out with the googly. Bhajji [Harbhajan] again was very consistent with his line and length and used the doosra and the top-spinner really well. I was very happy with their performance. The fast bowler Irfan [Pathan] did well. He gave us those early wickets, which is very important for us. We are a side that tends to leak a few runs in the first six overs so it’s very important that we get those wickets so that in the middle overs we put pressure on the opposition.