It is no secret that Mahendra Singh Dhoni sees players from small towns as natural allies. The hunger in them to compete with players from bigger cities and better infrastructure and succeed has always found the India skipper play the guide.
A clutch of unfancied players from the hinterland have felt the warmth of their captain. Whether it was RP Singh or fellow paceman Praveen Kumar, they were encouraged to perform well at the highest level despite their limited abilities.
After he had produced a match-winning knock to inspire India to a big victory in the second one-dayer against England on Tuesday, Dhoni, under fire over his leadership, was happy that newcomers in the squad had made vital contributions.
One of the most important efforts came from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, also a seamer from the Uttar Pradesh stable. In fact, Shami Ahmed too hails from the state but plays for Bengal. And Dhoni spent time explaining how important it is to mentor the youngsters as the team looks to build for the 2015 World Cup.
“We need to groom the lot, it's not only about Bhuvneshwar. He is someone who can swing the ball both ways. He is not exceptionally quick but he bowls at a decent pace. He is quite street-smart, he knows where to bowl and what needs to be done. With a bit more exposure and bit more matches under his belt, he can start executing the yorkers well and mix them up with the slower ones,” he said.
The 22-year-old from Meerut has made a mark since he grabbed three for nine on India debut, in the Twenty20 tie against Pakistan in Bangalore last month. On Tuesday, he removed Alastair Cook and then beat both Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan with accurate swing bowling.
“If somebody is bowling well and you need to get wickets, it's not a bad option to make him bowl 10 overs.” The result? He returned figures of 10-2-29-3.
Shami, 22, has bowled at good pace, and although is very much a work in progress, has attributed his improvement to Wasim Akram and Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir.
Dhoni said it was important to give these bowlers the batting support. “We need to keep going with these guys, back them and give them a bit of cushioning so that in future they become very good bowlers for us. Yes, you can say many of our top bowlers are injured at the moment, and considering that these guys are doing a good job.”
He admitted a lack of firepower in the bowling and inability of the top-order batsmen to convert starts was hurting the team.
“With batsmen, it is important one of them scores at least 75 so that there is no pressure on the others.”