Mahendra Singh Dhoni doesn’t want to take chances against Afghanistan. It reflects both pressure and common sense. A reverse against the minnows would rouse the fans’ anger. Besides, no team is strong or weak enough in the shifty sands of Twenty20.
There is enough history to it. The debacle of the 2007 World Cup singed a young team badly. Quite a few cricketers sought cover and their families were put on alert. Cricket in India perhaps was as its lowest ebb.
Three years down the line, a lot of positives have happened. India’s graph is soaring. They are best in Tests, not far behind in one-dayers and always a threat in T20.
Three years of IPL has added millions of new converts. Advertisers are loosening their purse strings like never before.
Dhoni, understandably, is keen to take it a notch up. The T20 World Cup in England wasn’t a happy experience. Nor was the Champions Trophy in South Africa. A captain not used to losing still has a bitter after-taste in his mouth.
Dhoni has another reason to field his best against little-known Afghanistan. Murali Vijay’s induction and Yuvraj Singh’s form is a matter of worry. He is also not sure if Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma would be as consistent in the international arena.
Bowlers are the biggest bane. In winning the 2009 World Cup, Pakistan showed how much the bowlers matter. The spin duo of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal and pace pair of Mohammed Aamer and Umar Gul were difficult to get past.
Unfortunately, India don’t seem to have such firepower. The new ball is still handled by veterans Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. A lot of young names have lost their sheen.
Praveen Kumar and Vinay Kumar have an opportunity, provided they get a chance.
Thus Dhoni does want his best team in the park and wants them to be in their best form. Anything less than a crushing win wouldn’t please him.
As the IPL showed, openers are key. A good start will go a long way in setting India up. How the pacers bowl their opening and closing spells would also be critical.
The spin trio of Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla must come good. Yusuf Pathan too must make it count. His career is still pulling on promise.