Raina, Ashwin likely to play, hints Dhoni

Raina, Ashwin likely to play, hints Dhoni

Dhoni also confirmed that opening batsman Virender Sehwag was nursing an "allergic reaction on the right knee" and the team would decide on his inclusion either Friday night or prior to the game Sunday.

When asked about the playing eleven, Dhoni said at the customary pre-match media conference: "You will have to wait till tomorrow (Sunday), but everyone will get a game before the knock-out."

Middle-order batsman Raina and off-spinner Ashwin are the only two among the squad of 15 still to play a match in the ongoing World Cup. When specifically asked whether he would opt for two off-spinners (Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh), Dhoni said: "You will have to wait until tomorrow (Sunday)."

In response to another query, Dhoni said the playing eleven would depend on the pitch conditions. The game, however, will be of academic interest following South Africa’s big win against Bangladesh at Dhaka Saturday and will decide the final positions of teams in the group.

The result confirmed the entry of South Africa (10 points), India (7), and England (7) into the quarter-finals from Group B. West Indies (6 points) are also through to the knockout unless they go down to India by a huge margin.

Dhoni’s counterpart Darren Sammy said the approach of the West Indies to the game would be to win, regardless of the result of the Mirpur game. "Obviously since we are cricketers, we are watching the game in Mirpur, but our focus is on what we need to do against India tomorrow (Sunday)," said Sammy.

The West Indies skipper would not disclose the team composition while saying that a decision would be taken later, but hoped to win the toss and bat first. "We played England on a wicket that looks a lot similar. I think both teams would agree that it still had more runs. Nice to see in the second innings, the ball did spin a bit more.
"Hopefully, I will win the toss and bat first and our spinners can exploit the wicket bowling second," he said.

Sammy clarified that there were no fitness issues in the team and that opening batsman Chris Gayle, who played the game against England after recovering from an abdominal strain, had recovered fully.

Even though Dhoni did not disclose the playing eleven, he said going in with two off-spinners -- Harbhajan Singh and R Ashwin -- against the West Indies, who have four left-handed batsmen, was definitely an option.

"I have not seen the wicket. But whatever we have seen from all the games so far, it has assisted the spinners. It has also offered decent bounce and reverse swing for the fast bowlers. So, we will see how it looks tomorrow."

India have been disappointing in the batting powerplay in the tournament so far and Dhoni said he was looking forward to an improved showing in this area in the future matches.

"At our best, we have scored close to 55 to 60 runs. But you have to keep in mind not to lose too many wickets in the powerplay. Hopefully, in the coming games we will make the most of it (powerplay)," the India skipper said.

Asked whether Indian batsmen come under pressure during batting powerplays, Dhoni said, "Personally, I do not think you need to manufacture shots. It is about timing. At times, if you have too many wickets in hand, you look to score as many runs as possible.
"But at the same time if you lose two or three wickets in a couple of overs, more often than not you waste the last three overs of that powerplay. So, you need to have a correct balance."

The famed Indian batting line-up has not fired in unison in the World Cup so far and Dhoni was aware of the fact.

"One good thing is that everybody has got a chance to bat under pressure and even without pressure. That is a big positive. As a batting line up, our seven batsmen have not fired to their best," he said.

Apart from their fragile bowling department, fielding is another area which continues to haunt India in the tournament, and Dhoni was candid enough to admit the fact.

"I do not see plenty of improvement in the fielding department. We are not definitely as good as some of the teams in the present World Cup but on our own we have shown that we are improving.

"Our good fielders are doing better every game and our safer fielders are getting better in each and every game," he insisted.

Going into tomorrow's match, Sachin Tendulkar is on the verge of yet another feat  -- reaching his 100th international century -- in his career but Dhoni said milestones are nothing new to the champion batsman.

"Well, he always keeps it really simple. He does not look at the milestones that come his way. He has been playing for the last 21 years. Throughout his career he knew that every game he plays some kind of a milestone is there round the corner," the Indian skipper said.

"He still works on his techniques and knows where he need to give an extra bit of effort. What really helps him is that he assesses the wicket and accordingly plans his strategy," Dhoni said giving an insight into Tendulkar's preparation.

Dhoni also said that whenever he falls short of ideas during a match, he turns back to the master.

"If you are short of ideas you can definitely walk up to him. He always give two to three ideas and you can pick the best option," the Indian captain said.

Asked what was the rationale behind batting first in their previous games against South Africa and England, Dhoni said, "In big tournaments people talk a lot about our batting. If you are looking to bat first you will look to score 20 or 30 odd runs more than the par score and give the bowlers an opportunity to defend. If you are looking to chase there is pressure on you.

"If everybody performs (with the bat) we are looking at over 310 or 320 runs in most of the games. Secondly, we have a strong batting line up," he said.

He, however, refused to comment on whether the toss will play a vital role in tomorrow's day-night affair considering the fact that the teams batting second in the last two matches here ended up on the losing side.

"Most of us thought the West Indies should have won the game (against England). When we played the warm up game over here we scored in excess of 320. That put plenty of pressure on the opposition from the very start.

"But it is very difficult to say whether toss will have a big impact on the game or not. What is important is if you are bowling first, do not to let the opposition score big runs," Dhoni said.

In their last game against South Africa, India were all set for a 350 plus score but they lost their last nine wickets for just 29 runs to be bowled out for 296 in 48.4 overs.

Eventually, India went on to lose the match by three wickets to the Proteas. And Dhoni admitted that the batters should have stuck around till the end.

"It would have looked very different if me and Virat (Kohli) batted the number of overs that were left. When you lose three or four wickets, you need to change your game a bit. All of a sudden looking to accelerate you need to try and score may be four or five runs per over so as to give a defendable target to the bowlers," the Indian captain said.

"But I don't think whatever happened in that game needs to be addressed in a big way. The better sides are the ones who do not repeat their mistakes in short interval," he added.

When pointed out that India could not finish off their matches against England, which ended in a tie, and South Africa despite dominating, he said the team had learnt from those two games.

"Good learning for all of us. It is not only about how well you started in the game or how long you dominated, till you don't finish off well you cannot say you have won a game."