From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.09 :: Feb. 28, 2009

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ON THE BALL / W.V. RAMAN COLUMN

Dhoni’s Midas touch needed

On a personal level, the New Zealand tour can be extremely demanding for Dhoni. He has to stay fresh mentally and physically since he will not get any rest. Besides, this will be the first time that he will be leading in an away series. It has been a long time, too, since India won in New Zealand.

AP

M. S. Dhoni addresses a press conference at the Christchurch airport in New Zealand.

There has been a lot of anxiety about how well the Indians are likely to fare on their tour of New Zealand as they get into the Test series without any side games, occupied as they are with the limited overs contests to begin with. In addition, the debacle on the last tour is still remembered by the followers and the media which only adds to the scepticism. A good memory is a good virtue, but as far as sportsmen are concerned, it is better to have a convenient memory in or der to perform at their best. The current Indian team should blatantly ignore what transpired during the last tour of New Zealand and get on with the job on hand. The reason I say this is because there is no point in living in the past and see devils when there are none. While it is important to remember and eschew the mistakes of the past, what is critical is to assess the prevailing conditions and adapt to them.

I am sure that Dhoni and his boys will do exactly that as the remarkable feature of the current Indian team is its attitude. Besides, they have been playing well as a unit in the last one year and they seem to believe that they can win against the odds. They will recollect the fact that they won in Perth last year despite being underpowered in the bowling department and since then they have gone from strength to strength. Prior to departing to New Zealand, Dhoni’s men were reminded of the poor results on the earlier tour and the general consensus is that the Indians will encounter seaming tracks. I for one would like to think that the Kiwis will think and rethink before they dish out seaming tracks as their current attack is not as venomous as the one they had earlier. Secondly, the Indian seamers, Zaheer and Ishant, have proved time and again that they can be lethal even on placid tracks and needless to add, they will run amok on a seaming track.

It is of paramount importance for a home team captain to weigh his own team’s strength and not the opposition team’s weakness alone before deciding on the kind of tracks that he would like to play on. Preparing tracks to suit the home team can be like seeking vengeance in the sense that it can be a double-edged sword. By this I mean that the Kiwi skipper must be absolutely sure of his batsmen’s ability to handle the Indian attack on seaming tracks as well. On the other hand, the Indian batting line-up has a good balance of grafters and stroke-players which can cause problems to the Kiwi bowling attack. Dravid will have a crucial role to play as he can really wear out an attack and as such he needs to drop anchor for the stroke-makers like Laxman and Yuvraj to keep the momentum going.

Since the Indians are playing all the three formats of the game, adaptability will be the key. Not only the conditions can pose some problems, but every format will demand a different kind of mindset and gameplan. The one element that will help Team India to continue its winning streak is the collective belief that it can win from any situation. This is exactly what has helped it to come out on top in tough situations in the past and that’s what should see the team through in New Zealand. On a personal level, this tour can be extremely demanding for Dhoni as he has to stay fresh mentally and physically since he will not get any rest. Besides, this will be the first time that he will be leading in an away series and as it has been a long time since India won in New Zealand, the Midas touch of the flamboyant skipper will be required.

The selection committee has given Dhoni five seamers at the expense of a reserve middle-order batsman and this is a good move as the bowlers can be fresh and bowl flat out. In sacrificing one reserve batsman, the selection committee has by implication shown a lot of faith in the middle-order and hopefully it will live up to the expectations. This is the kind of tour on which the experience of Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar would prove to be invaluable. The senior pros brought their experience into play against the Aussies at home to bail their team out when under pressure and Dhoni will be keen to see them at their best on this tour as well.

It will be interesting to see how the left-handed duo of Gambhir and Yuvraj approach this tour. By nature, they like to play their shots and dominate the attack and they should continue to do so and not restrain themselves because of the talk about tough wind conditions, seaming tracks etc. Adaptability is not always about technique, but also mindset. And it is the mental make-up that will decide the outcome of the series.



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