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MS Dhoni: It is tough for me to include Ajinkya Rahane in ODI cricket
Ajinkya Rahane will be overlooked by captain MS Dhoni for the first ODI of the five-match series against South Africa at Green Park, Kanpur on Sunday.
Dhoni on the eve of the match apparently told the pressmen that the flamboyant batsman will not be considered for the first ODI as he fits into the setup only in the ‘top three’ batting slots.
Dhoni, who had earlier criticised the stylish Mumbai batsman failing to rotate the strike in the 2015 World Cup semi-final against Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground. As a result, India lost the match. With top three – Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli-selecting themselves for the series for the inaugural match of the ODI series, it is unlikely that Rahane will start from the field.
“I think four is the number for Rahane. Even four is quite low for him I would say,” said Dhoni on the eve of the match. The captain himself has promoted himself to number four in the second and final ODI of Bangladesh tour after enduring the criticism for a long time batting at number six. Now, he is looking someone who can perform off the role of finisher, like what he did best for a number of years.
Talking more about Rahane, Dhoni said, “Opening fits him really well. Take the example of Rohit Sharma for that matter. In domestic cricket, he bats lower but in international matches he opens for us. Our openers more often than not are who bat in the middle order in first class cricket.
“So it is tough for him as of now. If am looking for someone to bat five or six I don’t think he is the person. His strength is top of the order. If given a chance, we will try to feature him in the top three, if not then we would find it tough to place him in the playing eleven.”
Interestingly, Rahane, who was dropped from the team after the first ODI in Bangladesh, was made the captain of the second string Indian team that toured Zimbabwe. Talking more about number six that he himself vacated, Dhoni said it is difficult to pick one for the role keeping in mind the performance of the T20 series that the hosts lost 0-2.
“If you are talking about that slot, you can’t pick one depending on the T20 performance. You don’t get to play the way you are supposed to play in an ODI. Even if they would have played, it would be difficult for us to pick one amongst the three for ODIS.
“If you also see the last few series, you always felt Rahane is somebody who should bat up the order. Batting down he will face more difficulty. He is more flamboyant, freer when he bats up the order with a few field restrictions,” said the skipper while talking about the prospect of Rahane, Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina coming in at six.
Talking about the bowlers, Dhoni said as the match will be played in daylight, so dew will not be a factor at all adding that there is a good chance of picking three specialist spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel and Amit Mishra. “They have watered it (pitch) a bit. It is still a little soft. But it will be different by the time the match starts. This is one venue where we can play three spinners. As I said we have to look at the wicket again. We will have to see how dry it is. “What are the chances of the pitch breaking up and assisting spinners. Definitely there will be no dew, so three spinner option is available for us. We will decide tomorrow,” Dhoni said.
Dhoni also made it clear Gurkeerat Singh Mann will have to keep his patience to make his India debut. “Gurkeerat is there, but he won’t get the chance right away. Having said that, it is good to have people like him who are multi-talented. For now, he will have to wait for his opportunity.”
Bowling has always been an area of a headache for Indian captain and in regard to the pacers, he has sought consistency from them over raw pace. With Umesh Yadav back in the team, the skipper hopes he finds the consistency to compliment his speed.
“We have emphasised a lot on pace but what is important is consistency. To exploit the conditions, if the wicket is on the slower side, you would want to be more consistent in your line and length and if you have pace, it can make a huge difference.”
“Umesh is definitely someone who can bowl quick. Over the years, we have seen is that he gives us good performances but at the same time he has his off days. Hopefully, more and more games will help him become consistent. Once he bowls well he does really bowl well,” he said.
On visitor South Africa, Dhoni stated, “They are a very good side. A lot depends on the composition and the kind of balance you have in the team. They have quite a few who can bat and bowl. After Jacques Kallis retired they did have problems in getting that perfect all-rounder.
“But they have got a few who can bat and ball and that helps. Overall, what we have seen is that they are a side which does well irrespective of where they are playing. A lot of them play in the IPL, so they are used to the conditions here in India.”