We cannot take Afghanistan lightly: Dhoni
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Thursday warned his team-mates against taking unheralded Afghanistan lightly in their Twenty20 World Cup opening match here on Saturday, saying any slip-up against them can put his side out of contention for super eights.
"If you ask me, I would not consider our opening match against Afghanistan as a practice game. I don't take my opponents lightly. At the end of the day you have to win whichever team you play," said Dhoni, ruling out complacency in the Indian camp.
"I don't know much about them. It is good in a way because if we know too much about a side then you are thinking too much about them. However, our preparation will remain the same as if you are playing the best opponent in world cricket," he said.
"We can't really relax against whichever team you are playing. At the end of the day you are representing India and you have to be at your best when you turn up on the field," Dhoni added.
Afghanistan has risen from the depths of the fifth division league to rub shoulders with the best in the cricket world. Their attitude, confidence and determination are aspects that India and South Africa, who have been drawn in Group C along with them, should be wary about.
On the criticism for not playing any warm-up game before the start of the tournament, Dhoni said his side does not need such matches as they have shaped up well.
"We don't actually need to play a warm-up game as the way we have shaped up after the long journey, there wouldn't have been any good coming out of it. It is good that we can rest and have a rigorous practice session tomorrow and get back into the groove and prepare for the match against them," said Dhoni.
India's most successful captain was not worried much about the injuries to some of his key players.
"It is part and parcel of cricket that people get injured. But at the end of the day we have replaced them (Sehwag) with the best possible players available.
"We are just hoping that we won't miss them on the field. We are hopeful that people who have come as replacements would step up to the occasion and perform," he said.
Delving on Yuvraj Singh's injury-riddled form, Dhoni said, "He bats at number four and the individual he is, he can easily play the big shots. There aren't enough grounds in the world that are big enough for him not to clear."
"These big hitters have a big impact on the game. Somebody like Kieron Pollard or (Andrew) Symonds is the kind of players who can take the game away from the opponents in three or four overs. It is a big stage for him (Yuvraj) and, as we have seen of him, he loves challenges.
"His utility as a bowler also comes into play. He did well against some of the best teams in the IPL. So it is good that you have more part timers in the bowling department as it gives us more options than just playing five bowlers," he added.
The flamboyant wicketkeeper-batsman said he likes to be in the present than look at the past and into the future.
"Rather than thinking too much of the past and into the future, it is very important to be in the present. We have a couple of days before we play the first game. It is important to get the most out of it. We have to adapt to the conditions here and be prepared for the matches ahead," Dhoni said.
The Indian skipper said they know the conditions here pretty well and are not bothered if wickets behave differently at the Caribbean.
"Right now we are keen to play the games here (St Lucia). We are not looking too far. It is the not first time that we are touring West Indies. So we know what the conditions would be like and are mentally prepared for it," he said.
Asked if the IPL had left his players fatigued, Dhoni said, "The last couple of hours we spent on the bus were much worse than the cricket we played in the IPL. If you look at our schedule, it is not something that has changed drastically over the last ten years.
"We have played almost the same amount of matches. Of course, with IPL being part of the schedule it gets a little tough. The players look good. They are quite fresh. Some of them sustained injuries during the IPL and have used time well. It looks good and we are hoping that we will perform to our potential," he said.
Dhoni said there was little or no room for errors in the Twenty20 format of the game.
"In this format you have to be at your best throughout. Every step you take or every six deliveries that you bowl have a great impact on the game. In the same way every run and catch that you save or miss will impact the performance. It is going to be a tough tournament. But then it is a sport, so let's go out and enjoy our cricket," he said.