There has been constant debate on whether Mahendra Singh Dhoni should bat up the order with questions being raised about his ability as a finisher but coach Anil Kumble made it clear that the veteran skipper has “enough experience” and “does not need time to settle down”.
Asked if Dhoni would be asked to bat up the order keeping in mind India’s Champions Trophy defence in UK next year, Kumble was quick to respond: “It all depends on match situations. While chasing you need more experience. As far as MS is concerned, he has enough experience. He has shown over the years that he has enough capabilities as a batsman.
“We don’t need to really look close at giving him time to settle in. You will probably see a different batting order depending on different situations.”
Dhoni holds numerous captaincy records such as most wins by an Indian captain in Tests and ODIs, and most back-to-back wins by an Indian captain in ODIs.
He took over the ODI captaincy from Rahul Dravid in 2007 and led the team to its first-ever bilateral ODI series wins in Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Under his captaincy, India won the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, the CB Series of 2007–08, the 2010 Asia Cup, the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup and the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy.
While flexibility remains key for Kumble, he did say that Manish Pandey is being looked at as a potential No. 4 due to his experience of handling pressure situations for long in domestic cricket as well as the spark that he has shown in his brief international career.
“We have a couple of options. Obviously, Manish is someone who has done really well in recent past. He started off really well in Dharamsala. It all depends on situations, may be someone else could walk up depending on whether we bat first or second. But Manish has shown a lot of promise and performance...something heartening. He has quite a bit of experience at domestic level unlike Hardik (Pandya) who is new at that level. He is certainly the No 4, we are looking into.”
Even as KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan’s injuries have opened the doors for Ajinkya Rahane at the top of the order, Kumble feels a clearer picture will emerge only after the tour of England.
“I think Rahane certainly fits in at the top of the order so that is one thing we will persist with. Yes, it does give us an option once Shikhar and Rahul are fit but will only look at that when England come for the one-dayers (in January). So it’s a lot of time before the next one-day series.
“In this one-day series, definitely Rahane is going to open the batting. Looking at the Champions Trophy, we will then decide who will open the batting,” said the chief coach.
Talking about how A tours act as a synergy for the senior team where some players are expected to hone specific skills before walking into the senior team’s dressing room and Hardik Pandya’s bowling is something that the team is banking on.
“I think he (Hardik) is someone who gives us right balance because he cannot only bowl but he bowls at a pretty decent pace. It was nice that he really bowled well in his first game with the new ball. That was certainly a strategy that MS wanted Hardik to try. And it’s really heartening that he came up with the MoM award in his first game.
“So that should give him a lot of confidence. Like I mentioned, all-rounders, who can run in and bowl quick and bat are certainly an asset and he is someone we will closely monitor and see how he progresses. We will expect Hardik to give us that 7-8 or 10 overs which certainly gives us a better balance in the team,” Kumble explained.
However the coach is not ready to put pressure on Hardik, the batsman.
“Someone who is just starting his international career we do not want to put pressure on him by giving him definite plans of what is expected of him.
He is someone who likes the freedom and that’s exactly what we have given someone like Hardik. We don’t want to burden the younger player, who is coming in, and suggest that this is what is expected of you.
“Because the moment you start putting pressure and tell that you bowl 6 deliveries in one spot, it doesn’t work that way in international cricket. Even with his batting, he has all the freedom, doesn’t really matter what the situation is.”
For Kumble, there must have been a sense of deja vu as he entered Feroz Shah Kotla, a venue where he got his historic ‘Perfect 10’ and also bid adieu to international cricket.
“I like coming to Kotla. If you are a player and performed here, then you certainly bring that confidence with you and come with the same hopes, keeping the record in mind,” said Kumble.