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That’s how Indian cricket has been over the last couple of years. Hurtling from one series to another, the team management is torn between giving players good, sufficient preparation time and preserving them for bigger events. Right now, there are 10 selected players, six nets bowlers from the first-class arena and physio Patrick Farhart doing their bit in Dubai.
“We have sent six bowlers to bowl in the nets so that the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar don’t overstrain, having come back from an injury.
“The bowlers at the ICC academy are too young and inexperienced to provide quality practice,” a source close to the team management told TOI.
Their regional rivals won’t miss a chance to remind them of regular captain Virat Kohli‘s absence. With Kohli rested, it’s time to turn the focus on MS Dhoni, even as stand-in captain Rohit Sharma sharpens his willow in anticipation of another dominating show in white-ball cricket. Dhoni is still carrying the burden of a below-par, uncharacteristic performance in England but for the rest of the team and the management, he remains the man to walk up to. “There’s the experience and knowledge of Dhoni. He is used to looking after a team,” sources close to the team management told TOI.
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The team management and younger players have always harped on the tactical guidance offered by Dhoni, even 18 months after he stepped down from the leadership role. At this juncture, though, doesn’t it seem appropriate to let Dhoni alone and let him rediscover his match-winning game ahead of the World Cup? Surely, the unforgiving, ego-puncturing boos at Lord’s wouldn’t have faded away so soon.
India have resisted in grooming a backup for Dhoni, and any flicker of his once famed flamboyance has been magnified and glorified by the team management. “The World Cup is too far ahead. We will play a lot of games before that. A lot of players will get an opportunity to stake claim for a berth in that World Cup squad. It’s a great opportunity to try for that perfect combination,” said Rohit on Friday.
But the combination is more likely to revolve around protecting Dhoni. It’s unlikely that the team management sees someone like Dinesh Karthik as a handy replacement. The hyped Rishabh Pant has been ignored for the tournament. There is practically no time to groom someone for Dhoni’s role before the World Cup.
In such a scenario, Dhoni needs to be given the best opportunity to find his touch and be a match-winning force by the time the World Cup arrives. For that, he needs time at the crease. He doesn’t play much domestic cricket too. In Kohli’s absence, the upcoming two weeks on the slow UAE pitches will present Team India with a big opportunity to get its oldest warrior back in shape, slaying opponents like he once used to.