Colombo: Just after finishing his pre-match press conference, Mahendra Singh Dhoni took a walk to the pitch that has been prepared for the first Super 8 game against Australia. He had a short chat with the curator, had a closer look at the pitch — which is a fresh one — and spent around five minutes just walking the length of the pitch. He then quietly made his way to the dressing room.
These might have been the most crucial moments for the India skipper and some of the players who are on the fringes of selection — at the moment, there are plenty.
In the press conference earlier, he had mentioned that India were going to play five bowlers in the match against the Aussies.
“We will go into the game with five bowlers but only after looking at the pitch will we decide to go into the match with two spinners or play three pacemen,” said Dhoni on Thursday. “It will be one of the toughest decisions I have taken so far. It has to be a good decision — taken according to the needs of the team – because it really matters.”
India had an optional nets session at the R Premadasa today. Zaheer Khan, R Ashwin and L Balaji opted out and the team has no fitness worries at the moment.
It wasn’t a long, particularly arduous session. Most batsmen spent around 15-20 minutes in the nets but attention was once again focused on Sehwag. For the best part of 30 minutes, he was seated in one corner, without padding up and everyone was trying to play mind-reader as he got up and then walked over to the massage table.
But then he eventually put on the pads and walked out to bat. He even indulged in some banter with Ashoke Dinda — indeed the India opener seemed to be in good humour today.
That should have put Dhoni’s mind at ease too. He was in a pretty jovial mood in the press conference. When he was asked about Australia’s plan to attack the Indian batsmen with short–pitched deliveries, he said: “The short ball is as much trouble to us as it is to anyone else. It just depends on how quick your bowlers are. If I am bowling, I won’t rely on the short ball for sure. But if there is someone who bowls at 145-150, definitely he will use the short-pitched delivery. For the last five years, we’ve been talking about different things in the press conferences. But the Aussies, before every match we play, say the same things.
“Our side has not really changed for the past few years and most of our batsmen have played a decent amount of ODIs and T20 cricket. I think we now know what to do.”
And in that sense, Dhoni knows that he needs his first four batsmen to come up trumps in the Super 8s.
“We have noticed, at least, in the subcontinent, that the pitches become slower as the match goes on and that is why the first four batsmen have to do a good job for the team. The game changes in between the 8th and the 12th over and that is when wickets generally fall. So it’s important that the top four take advantage of the ball coming on to the bat.”
In many ways, the real World Twenty20 only starts on Friday. Dhoni knows that and he sure hopes his team is ready to join the battle.