Dhoni cautious

M.S.Dhoni... a sharp thinker.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

The selectors play it safe by roping in familiar names alongside a few who have performed well in the domestic Twenty20 competition, writes Nandita Sridhar.

A two-week choc-a-bloc run-fest will offer little leeway for the new-look Indian Twenty20 team to evolve, but what it will do is provide a fleeting glimpse of the core players who will form the main team after Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid retire.

The Twenty20 is still in a nascent stage in Indian cricket. Keeping in mind the lack of exposure of the regular Test and ODI players to this form of the game, the selectors have roped in some familiar names alongside a few who have performed well in the domestic Twenty20 competition, for the inaugural World Twenty20 Championship to be held in South Africa in September.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s elevation as captain was expected. Being the only consistent and stable member of the side outweighed his leadership inexperience. The 26-year-old is a sharp thinker, and refused to bloat the enormity of the challenge. “I never had the experience of playing at the international level when I played my first match. These are things you see and learn from the senior players — the challenges that they are facing in a match. If you are open minded you can learn a lot from them, from the senior guys, from the captains and from the very successful captains in international cricket,” he said.

Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan are the interesting inclusions, with all three out of favour for Test and One-Day berths. Being experienced and proven match-winners worked in their favour. With the team travelling without its senior-most players and a full-time coach, throwing too many newcomers into this high-intensity format would have been a risk.

Despite getting the foot in the door, Sehwag, Harbhajan and Pathan will have little time to adjust; and barring Harbhajan’s there were no outstanding performances at the periphery. India is grouped with Pakistan, which removes chances of the clash from the mercy of providence. The pressure will be on upfront, when India meets Pakistan in its second group match.

Newcomers like Yusuf Pathan and Rohit Sharma make up for the absence of Twenty20 specialists that a few other nations have included in their squads. The rest of the team is barely a surprise, with fresh legs and hard-hitters. The team will also benefit from the services of Cricket Manager Lalchand Rajput, bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad and fielding coach Robin Singh. (Incidentally, bowling and fielding are the lesser-discussed and valued aspects of Twenty20, when compared to batting.)

Skipper Dhoni, meanwhile, is already at ease in dealing with the media. “Until I go on to the field and until I captain the side, I can say that I’m well prepared. But the challenge is to take the right decision at the right time. Sometimes you are the captain for five or 10 matches but you don’t really have perfect situations. One decision matters for the game and that will tell me if I’m prepared or not,” he said of captaincy. However prepared he might be in September, he sure is on the right path now.

The Team

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain), Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Dinesh Karthik, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Joginder Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla, S. Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan, R.P. Singh, Rohit Sharma.