'Giving Irfan new ball was a ploy to silence Afridi'
"We knew they would check the record book and field Afridi as an opener. So we decided to give the new ball to Irfan..," said Dhoni.cricket Updated: Nov 11, 2007 20:29 IST
Seeing Irfan Pathan operating with the new ball came as a surprise for most, but Team India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni revealed it was a ploy to silence Shahid Afridi's blazing blade.
Dhoni was all smiles as he came for the post-match press conference after his side beat Pakistan by 46 runs to regain lead in the five-match series. And he was only elated as he shared how he had planned not to allow Afridi fire on all cylinders.
"We knew they would check the record book and field Afridi as an opener. So we decided to give the new ball to Irfan. He's among the more accurate bowlers and he proved it today," Dhoni said.
Two years back, Afridi these days a 'floater' in the Pakistani batting line-up had created a mayhem at the same venue, belting a 45-ball century. Expecting an encore from the flamboyant swashbuckler, Pakistan sent him to open the innings with Salman Butt but the explosive right-hander was castled by Pathan for 12, before he could be dangerous.
Interestingly, it was Butt and not Afridi, who looked in sizzling form even though the left-hander's career best 129 was not enough to avert a defeat.
Dhoni, however, insisted that though Butt was going great guns, at no stage did he fear about losing the match.
"In fact, I never really thought they came close to winning. The pitch was on the slower side, ball was not coming to the bat, wicket was assisting the spinners and Bhajji was bowling so well. It was very difficult to score off him. Zak (Zaheer) also bowled well and there really was no stage when I would fear that the match was slipping from us," he said.
Dhoni was also effusive in his praise for his deputy Yuvraj Singh, who topscored with 77, effected a run out and took one wicket as well to win the Man of the Match award.
"As I have told before the series, he is our trump card. The kind of shots he plays and the class he shows, it's a pleasure to have a player of his calibre.
"It helps when we are batting together. If I get stuck and boundaries are not easy to come by, I know he is there to score those boundaries and take the pressure off me," Dhoni said.
Dhoni said it was probably a good toss to lose.
"To be honest, it was a bit confusing. All know that the ball would seam here for the first 30-40 minutes, which it did even today. In fact, had I won the toss, we would have fielded first as well."
He said Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar provided yet another good start but it was important to carry the good work through the middle overs as well.
"Whenever we got a good start, we capitalised on it and it was no different today. Our openers did a good job today.
"At the same time, you need to build good partnerships from the 20th to 40th overs before going for that late charge. It's same for any team and same for both batting and bowling. You have to do well in the middle overs." More
Dhoni said the bowlers did a decent job but they can bowl even better.
"I think we bowled better than them but there is still room for improvement in this department.
"Fielding, however, I don't think was upto the mark. Overall, you can call it an average day in the office in this department and we should have done better."
Dhoni also hinted that Gautam Gambhir's consistency might prolong Virender Sehwag's stay in the sidelines.
"It's tough for any skipper to keep a player of Sehwag's calibre out of the side. But Gautam has been doing well and he has been consistent too.
"It's in fact a problem for the skipper if all his players start doing well," he quipped.
Though he could not be drawn to comment on Anil Kumble's appointment as Test captain, Dhoni said having senior players like Tendulkar and Ganguly helped him in decision making.
"Come on, they have played 600-plus ODIs between themselves and have loads of experience. Yuvi too comes up with suggestions and I am open to all suggestions," he said.
First Published: Nov 11, 2007 20:11 IST