New challenge for slip cordon

When India take on New Zealand in the first Test here from Thursday, they not only are going to miss batsmen extraordinaire Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman but also two of the finest fielders that manned the slip cordon.

While hoping the youngsters would fill the breach left by the duo, MS Dhoni admitted the team may miss Dravid especially when spinners are in operation. “(Fielding for) spinners can be a bit of an issue because it will be challenging especially when there is bounce for the spinners,” pointed out Dhoni before adding: “We may miss Rahul bhai over there, but let’s just look ahead and give youngsters a chance and one of them may take some catches.”

Otherwise, Dhoni felt, the youngsters were capable enough to emulate Dravid and Laxman in the slips. “When it comes to scoring runs and the kind of experience they had, it will be quite difficult (not to miss) but as far as slip cordon is concerned, we have seen some of the youngsters, they catch really well. We have Virat (Kohli) and (Suresh) Raina and we already have Sehwag there and he will most likely stand in the first slip. I don’t think we will be short of fielders who field at slips,” he explained.

The Indian skipper also exhorted the youngsters to grab the opportunities and step up to the challenge. “You have to accept things as they come and one of the ways to look at it is to look ahead,” he noted when asked about life after Dravid and Laxman. “Definitely these two are great players and we will miss them on the field, but at the same time it’s an opportunity for youngsters to take up the responsibility in the longest format and we are hoping the youngsters will grab these opportunities and do well.”

Dhoni also stressed on the need to start well. “Starting well means winning the series which means looking ahead only for the next 15 days but we are not looking to do just that. We have not played a Test match in the last six to seven months, so it will be important to turn up on the field and look to do small things right.”

On him being incommunicado when Laxman wanted to reach him before announcing retirement, Dhoni said that’s how he has always been but has been trying to change himself. “You think it’s a controversy but people who know me have always complained that I am someone who is difficult to get hold of. That’s the reason why Laxman couldn’t get to me. It’s not something new. I am trying to improve but just not improving,” he remarked.

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