Just how difficult skipper MS Dhoni’s role has become can be gauged from the duration of his batting at the nets, which lasted longer than anyone else’s and extracted the last bits from his three pacemen and those giving throw-downs.
Another indication was the admission that things were different from what they were when the seniors, and now retired players, were around.
Dhoni, looking focused and serious on Tuesday, made it clear that his job, although coveted, was far from making others envious.
Different ball game
“It will be quite different. When all the senior players were around, I didn’t have to worry about preparations,” he said.
When he took charge of the India team, half of it was seasoned, having travelled across continents, played against some of the best attacks and knew more or less what to do ahead of big tours.
Dhoni just had to be there on that day, concentrate on what to do and get on with it. Today, he is between mentoring players, taking his batting seriously and also being on the field and captaining the side.
“With the new set of players, you need to guide them as to what areas need to be improved,” he said.
The biggest challenge is that the techniques of the youngsters are being tested by the South Africa bowlers and the talk with even amateurs and spectators mentioning it aloud.
Coach Duncan Fletcher may know more on what the batsmen lack or possess as he has been standing behind the nets and explaining to the batsmen what needs to be done or avoided.
However, this is too short a period for the skipper and coach to make changes and Dhoni probably expects the players to play within their limitations.
“I have to guide them. But at the same time, you can’t be too technical. That is because you cannot change your technique in 5, 6 or 7 days.”
This is the first time India will be in a Test after Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement. The South Africans are feeling hard done-by for not having got his farewell Test and probably the aura around him will be missed, at least psychologically for the Indians too.
Perhaps the fact that India played without him last month and Dhoni and the others got time to reflect on it have made things easier. “We have accepted the fact that he won’t be there and moved on. (The fact that he is not there) makes it easy for us,” said Dhoni.