Mumbai: Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni Sunday said it will be a fresh start for Indian cricket as the team embarks on a tour to South Africa without batting legend Sachin Tendulkar, who retired from all forms of cricket last month.
Dhoni said the three-match ODI series that starts the tour will help the team prepare well for the two Tests.
India will first play the ODI series in Johannesburg (Dec 5), Durban (Dec 8) and Centurion (Dec 8).
The only practice match, a two-day affair, is slated for Dec 14 and first Test starts Dec 18 in Johannesburg and the second from Dec 26 in Durban.
“If you see, there is always a new start,” Dhoni said before the team left for South Africa.
He said it will be a new challenge for his young team
“Many of them have had good exposure if not in Tests, but in ODIs. It is a new challenge for all of them and a new learning curve. It is always a challenge when you go outside. Which length to bowl and to adjust to the bounce of the wickets. It is good to start with ODIs. As the batsmen can play their shots and express themselves and carry it into the Tests,” Dhoni said.
Dhoni also surprised the media by saying that Gautam Gambhir, who is not part of the squad, could be the third opener in Tests. Gambhir has done well in the ongoing Ranji Trophy.
“If you see, Gautam is definitely our third opener that we are considering. As of now, Vijay and Shikhar, they have done really well for us. So third opener as of now is Gautam,” Dhoni said.
Reminded that Gambhir is not part of the squad, Dhoni said: “I know (Gambhir not being in team) but he is the third opener. But he never asked if he is part of the team.”
Dhoni also said that it was not decided who will replace Tendulkar at No.4 in the Tests.
“We are not decided on No.4. No one is going to replace anyone else. If possible, we will omit the number 4. And try to bat 1, 2, 3, 5, 6… And 12,” said Dhoni.
Dhoni also hoped that the bowlers will perform better in the death overs unlike what they have done in the series against Australia.
“In different conditions the statistics would be different. There will be pace and bounce on offer for the fast bowlers. Along with the yorkers, they can use bouncers and a little bit pace. So we will see how it goes,” he said.
The India captain said bowlers have improved a lot while bowling in the death overs, but expects a lot from them.
“In the last few matches it has improved a lot but we are trying to see how to improve (more), so that we don`t give lot of runs in the last 10 overs. If you see our Champions Trophy performance and if you compare our death (overs) bowling you will see that it is a completely different scenario. The ideal would be to compare how the Indian bowlers performed in the last 10 overs and how Australian bowlers performed in the death overs in the same game. Then it becomes more realistic,” he said.
Dhoni said it would be a good series between the two top Test nations.
“If you see both the teams are well positioned in the rankings. In ODIs it is us and in Tests it is they. It is going to be exciting and interesting series. The key is getting adjusted to conditions as early as possible,” he said.
“They have a very good team, well balanced team, with genuine all-rounders. Pressure goes hand in hand whether in India or away,” he added.
Dhoni also said that the team management is yet to decide whether they will go in with five specialist bowlers.
“We have to see the strength of our batting line up. At the same time, whether four bowlers are good enough to get the opposition out. If you see, at times five batsmen are not enough, even six are not enough. And if you see the last two Test matches, the number six batsman has had a lot of impact on the game. We will weigh how it is and then decide,” he said.