Bigger teams, bigger tests await Dhoni’s men
COLOMBO: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni heads into the Super Eights stage of the World Twenty20 this week delighted to have the enviable problem of which player to leave out.
A revamped India condemned England to their heaviest T20 defeat — by 90 runs — in Colombo on Sunday after bowling the defending champions out for their lowest T20 total of 80.
India rested three regulars — seamer Zaheer Khan, spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and opener Virender Sehwag — for the group A match because both teams had already qualified for the Super Eights.
Veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh marked his return to the Indian team after a year with 4-12, including a wicket maiden in his first over, and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla took 2-13.
With Ashwin, Harbhajan and Chawla fighting for the spinners’ spots in the Super Eights and a settled batting order to choose from, Dhoni said his team was well prepared for the next battle.
“We do have a problem of plenty,” Dhoni said.
“But I can assure you, a problem of plenty is better than not having that one extra guy.
“But bigger teams await us and we need to be consistent. In every match, we have to be at our best. Hopefully, we will do that in the next three matches.”
India face Australia, South Africa and either Pakistan or Bangladesh in what is being touted as the “group of death”, from which the top two will advance to the semi-finals.
India, who recorded successive wins against Afghanistan and England in the first round, will remain in Colombo for the next stage and play in the familiar surroundings of the Premadasa Stadium.
Dhoni praised the 32-year-old Harbhajan, who was recalled for the World Twenty20 after being sidelined due to injury and poor form since August last year.
“Harbhajan bowled well,” Dhoni said after the off-spinner recorded the best T20 figures by an Indian bowler and was named the man of the match.
“He did not bowl short. He invited the batsmen to drive by pitching the ball up. He made good use of variations, plus his mindset was very aggressive.
“He was very focused and he really wanted to do well. It’s a very big positive for us because if we are playing one batsman short, he is someone who can slog down the order. He is a very good option for us.”
The Indian skipper refused to speculate which spinners he will pick in future.
“Frankly, I don’t know who will play,” Dhoni said.
“But I am quite happy with the problem of plenty. The selection will depend on the wicket. If it’s a fresh and hard-rolled wicket, spinners may not be that effective.
“And it will be a difficult decision which bowler to drop to play the seventh batsman. The middle order has done well and the two openers we have (Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag) can win matches on their own.”
Dhoni also backed Rohit Sharma, whose unbeaten 55 off 33 balls against England was his first half-century in the last eight one-day or T20 international innings.
“I personally rate him very highly,” Dhoni said.
“He is someone who can play strokes right from the start. Plus he runs well between the wickets.”
India’s first Super Eights match is against Australia on Friday.