Dhoni wants young guns to step up
INDIA captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has no doubts the team will miss the experience of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman but expects young players to step up and fill the void created by the retirement of the stalwarts.
The hosts finally face the transition problem that has been on the cards for quite some time when they start the two-Test series against New Zealand in Hyderabad on Thursday.
India lost eight away Tests in England and Australia last year, which prompted Dravid and Laxman to quit and pave the way for the next generation.
"One of the ways to look at it is to look ahead to the future … definitely these two are great players and we will miss them on the field," Dhoni said on Wednesday.
"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.
"You have to accept things as they come."
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane are the most likely to fill the batting slots although Subramaniam Badrinath, who was drafted into the squad as a replacement for Laxman, will also fancy his chances.
India will also need to find two dependable slip fielders in the absence of Dravid and Laxman, but Dhoni feels it will be a far easier problem to deal with than making up for their wealth of runs and experience.
"Well, we are hoping we won’t miss them at least in the slip cordon because when it comes to scoring runs and the kind of experience they had, it will be quite difficult," Dhoni said.
"But as far as the slip cordon is concerned, we have seen some of the youngsters catch really well. We have Virat (Kohli), (Suresh) Raina and we already have (Virender) Sehwag there, he will most likely stand at first slip.
"Spinners can be a bit of an issue because it will be challenging especially when there is bounce.
"We may miss Rahul over there, but let’s just look ahead and give youngsters a chance and one of them may take some catches."
India will also play Tests against England and Australia at home later in the season and the series against New Zealand would help the team get back in the groove, Dhoni said.
"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," he said.
"So it’s important to get into the groove, give a bit more respect to the bowlers.
"Yes, we had a disappointing last eight (away) Test matches, but if you look at the positive side of it, there is only one way and that’s going up."
New Zealand, ranked eighth among nine Test-playing nations in the world, are hoping there will be some swing for their pacemen to trouble the Indian batsmen in the absence of their most capped cricketer, Daniel Vettori. The all-rounder has been ruled out by injury and New Zealand will miss the spinner’s experience on the low and slow surfaces of India.
Captain Ross Taylor said: "The guy has played the most Tests for New Zealand, you can never replace that, but once again, it gives an opportunity and with these conditions, every day we have been here so far, it has been cloudy. We are expecting it to swing. It swung in training and hopefully it can swing for five days as well."
n Australia’s acting coach Steve Rixon believes the extreme heat they will face in the United Arab Emirates when playing Afghanistan and Pakistan will be the perfect preparation for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
That heat was immediately apparent to the squad when they landed early on Wednesday with captain Michael Clarke tweeting: "Just landed in Dubai. 5.30am and it’s 37 degrees Celsius. Think we are in for a hot couple of weeks."
But Rixon, who has taken over the head coach’s duties for the first part of a tour while Mickey Arthur plans for next month’s World Twenty20, told reporters the hot weather was a positive rather than a negative.
"It’s a bonus for us to be playing here as it’s important for us to be getting miles in the legs and this is the best place to be doing it," he said.
"Whatever happens here will be a very big stepping stone to us being successful in Sri Lanka. If we get through this, Sri Lanka will seem like a holiday resort," said Rixon.
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