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Updated: February 5, 2010 22:48 IST

Awaiting Laxman’s fitness report, yet to decide No.3: Dhoni

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Indian skipper M.S.Dhoni during a practice session ahead of the first cricket Test against South Africa in Nagpur on Friday. Photo: PTI
Indian skipper M.S.Dhoni during a practice session ahead of the first cricket Test against South Africa in Nagpur on Friday. Photo: PTI

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Friday said the team is waiting for middle order mainstay V.V.S. Laxman’s fitness report before deciding who will bat at number three in the first Test against South Africa starting here on Saturday.

“We have 15 or 16 players. There’s some uncertainty over Laxman who was in the nets today. He will come back and share with physio how he feels. Other than that all others are fit,” Dhoni told reporters during the match-eve media conference at the new VCA Stadium in Jamtha.

Dhoni made it clear that he would stick to his batting slot and not promote himself up the order.

“We are waiting on Laxman. I will stick to my batting number. We will see how it goes and what the situation exactly is,” he said.

Laxman is under the cloud because of a finger injury he sustained during India’s recent tour of Bangladesh and Rohit Sharma has been drafted in as cover.

Even if Laxman plays tomorrow, Dhoni said he would not field in the slip.

“We will keep playing the playing 11 a secret. But there are less chances of Laxman if he plays standing in the slips,” Dhoni said.

India would miss Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and S. Sreesanth through injuries but Dhoni hoped the youngsters would step up and show their mettle.

“Injuries are beyond our control, especially sports related injuries. We will miss Rahul but somebody has to step up and do the work for the team. I’m expecting some of the youngsters will get an opportunity to prove themselves and make runs for the side,” Dhoni said.

Dwelling on the track, Dhoni expected it to aid the spinners as well as offer reverse swing which, he said, was crucial for the fast bowlers once the new ball stops swinging the traditional way.

“It looks like a flat track that will take turn. We will see spinners coming into action as the game progresses. The wicket is quite dry and I am expecting fast bowlers to get reverse swing,” he said.

“It’s a low bounce wicket and does not have the kind of bounce you see in South Africa, Australia or England. Reverse swing will be crucial. If a batsman plays a bad shot you can get him out caught at mid-wicket or bowled,” he said.

“For Fast bowlers it will be important if they get reverse swing going as in most of the tracks in India you don’t see much swing happening apart from the new ball. It’s about good line and length, bowling good deliveries and maintaining pressure,” the Ranchi-born captain said.

Because of the low and slow nature of the wicket, leaving out the bouncers and playing the pull shot could be difficult, he felt.

“One of the difficulties when you play on slow and low tracks is to leave the bouncers or play the pull shot. You will see fast bowlers bowling bouncers from both the sides,” Dhoni said.

The Indian captain also expressed confidence that openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir can take care of the short-pitched stuff which the South African pacers have promised to hurl at them.

“Our openers have done well all around. They did well in New Zealand, in Australia and there’s no reason they cannot do it over and over. All our boys are used to playing under pressure,” he said.

Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, two of the three fast bowlers against whom the Indian opening duo will be up against, have promised to bowl lot of short stuff in the two-Test series.

Dhoni, while admitting the visitors were better as fielders in the deep, expressed confidence that India’s catching would be up to the standards in the series.

“We are a good catching side and that’s what matters in Test cricket. Generally our slip catching has been good and we are not really worried about that. As far as ground fielding is concerned they are better. But it’s all about bowling well and adapting to the situation, taking the opportunities and half chances. We have three outstanding fielders and others are safe fielders,” he said.

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