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Dhoni in damage control mode

If there is one question MS Dhoni would love not to be asked before the second ODI versus South Africa, it has to be about injuries in the side and the fitness of his fast bowlers. Subhash Rajta reports.

cricket Updated: Jan 14, 2011 01:47 IST
Subhash Rajta

If there is one question M.S. Dhoni would love not to be asked, it has to be about injuries in the side and the fitness of his fast bowlers. The Indian skipper, in recent times, has invariably found himself reading out the medical bulletin of his new ball bowlers.

Naturally, the frustration of leading the injury prone attack has started showing. "I think it's very important that none of them gets injured. Right now I am not bothered about whether they have any match practice or not, we need these four or five fast bowlers fit going into the World Cup," he said after the embarrassing 135-run loss to South Africa in the first ODI on Wednesday.Stat attack

What drew a rather sharp response from the Indian skipper was the question about Ashish Nehra's probable lack of match practice for the game. The left-arm pacer looked much below his best, bowling most of the time at or around 125kmph.

With Zaheer Khan looking vulnerable to injuries in recent times, and Praveen Kumar too nursing one, a below par Nehra could be the worst news for India ahead of the World Cup for these three would be the first choice seamers.

"The important thing is that these are the three or four fast bowlers we have got, whatever the situation and condition may be. We have got to back them to do well; we don't see any option when it comes to fast bowling," said Dhoni.

Apart from putting a question mark on the injury-prone pace attack, the loss has also put the batting line-up under the scanner. The way they caved in without a semblance of resistance is bound to bring back questions on their abilities to handle pace and bounce.

Dhoni couldn't find any positives other than Virat Kohli's gritty half century. He looked the only one willing to accept the challenge and fight it out against the four-pronged South African pace attack. While he's already a certainty in the 15-member World Cup squad, a few more good showings here could actually see him pushing for a place in the starting XI.

It's tempting to liken the batting collapse and the bad start to the ODI series to the just concluded Test series where too India had a terrible start before staging a remarkable recovery. However, it's going to be more difficult for here, unlike in the first Test in Centurion, the batsmen caved in on a Kingsmead wicket that didn't have too much in it. "There was a bit of a bounce in the wicket, but not much pace and swing. The ball did swing a bit initially, but wasn't doing much after that.”