As India gear up for the ODI leg of their Australian tour, their eyes are firmly fixed on the big prize – the World Cup. Before that they play a tri-nation ODI series against Australia and England, which captain MS Dhoni said will be a preparation ground for their World Champions title defense.
“In this series the most important thing for us will be to get the combination right for the World Cup,” Dhoni said ahead of their first match of the tri-series, against Australia, on Sunday. “At the same time we will ensure that we don’t push the players who have minor niggles so they don’t end up being major injuries. We will give them the extra time because we want every player to be at least 80 to 90 per cent fit going into a game.”
Of the players with niggles are Ishant Sharma (left knee) and Ravindra Jadeja (left shoulder) and Dhoni said the two players will not be available for selection for the MCG ODI.
“There are quite a few players with a bit of niggle here and there and we are monitoring their progress. In tomorrow’s game, Ishant and Jadeja are not available for selection because we are managing their workload.”
Besides the 15 players picked for the World Cup, India have included Mohit Sharma and Dhawal Kulkarni in the tri-series squad in order to give the main bowlers some time to recover from the Test series. However, Dhoni hasn’t ruled out Mohit and Dhawal’s late inclusion in the World Cup squad if required.
“That’s the major thinking behind them being here,” he said. “At the same time we will first select players from the 15-man World Cup squad. If we feel a player needs more time then we will look to add Mohit or Dhawal in the squad.”
Further discussing the formation of the squad, Dhoni said the inclusion of Stuart Binny was a crucial one as at some of the pace friendly venues the team will need a seam bowling all-rounder.
“We are playing a few games in Perth and New Zealand, where we felt the last time that there wasn’t much purchase for the spinners,” Dhoni explained. “That’s where Stuey may come in. Irrespective of all the debate, the best seam all-rounder in India has been picked. He is an exciting player – he bats aggressively and is a good bowler. If he gives me six to eight overs it’s more than enough.”
Dhoni said fielding will be his team’s strength going into the marquee tournament. “Fielding is something we pride ourselves on,” he said.
“It is a major part of modern cricket irrespective of the format. We are a fantastic fielding side and it has reflected in the ODIs that we have played in the last few years. On grounds with big outfields it is important to judge where to stand because on these grounds the batsmen like to push the ball between two fielders and run two-three runs.”
India’s record in the ICC tournaments in the last four years has been remarkable. They won the Champions Trophy in England in 2013 and were runners-up in last the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. While Dhoni is quietly confident of his team’s ability to win big, he is not getting carried away.
“We have done well in the last two ICC tournaments and both of them were away, in Sri Lanka and England,” he said. “But the conditions in Australia and New Zealand are quite different. You also have to keep in mind the form of the players and the little niggles that some of them are carrying. But yes, we will take a lot of confidence out of our last few performances in the ICC tournaments.”
Speaking of his bowling plans, Dhoni wants his pacers to perfect their yorkers for the limited overs challenge. “The execution of yorkers and bouncers becomes very crucial and that’s what we have been working on in the last few days. The bowlers are doing pretty well with the yorkers and if they can replicate in the match, we will be very happy with it,” Dhoni said.