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Updated: February 6, 2010 00:20 IST

Smith looks to put pressure on Dhoni

Special Correspondent
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Graeme Smith
The Hindu Graeme Smith

Indian captain M.S. Dhoni has asked his young batsmen to step up to the challenge of facing South Africa in the first Test, which begins here on Saturday.

Injuries sustained during the tour of Bangladesh may force India to field untested middle-order batsmen in three of the four slots. Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh were ruled out ahead of the series while V.V.S. Laxman hasn’t recovered completely and is a doubtful starter.

S. Badrinath is set to make his Test debut. Rohit Sharma could make his in the event of Laxman not playing. M. Vijay will most likely bat at three.

Beyond our control

“Injuries are beyond our control,” said Dhoni. “We will miss Rahul (Dravid) but nothing can be done about it. We’ll have to wait on Laxman. At the end of the day someone needs to step up for the team. So we’re expecting youngsters who have to opportunity to prove themselves to get runs for the team.”

South African captain Graeme Smith said an inexperienced middle-order would put pressure on India’s openers and Sachin Tendulkar. “Guys like Laxman, Rahul Dravid bring not only experience but also probably a lot of calmness to the Indian team,” said Smith.

“They (India’s other batsmen) know that they don’t have a guy with 10,000 runs at No. 3. So the responsibility on Sehwag especially is crucial.”

Smith also spoke of putting his counterpart under pressure. “We understand Dhoni a lot better, we have a little bit more information on him from behind the scenes,” said Smith. “We see him as a key figure in their side, and if we can create a lot of pressure on him, maybe we can open up a few chinks. Certainly, he is a guy we would like to keep under pressure throughout the tour.”

Lower and slower

Both captains said the track looked like it would be on the lower and slower side and might turn as the game progressed. South Africa’s bowlers have spoken ahead of the Test of challenging India’s batsmen with bouncers, and Dhoni said his seamers would use the short ball as well.

“One of the difficulties of a slow and low track is judging how high the bouncer will rise,” said Dhoni. “It’s difficult to leave the bouncer and it’s difficult to play the pull shot. You will see fast bowlers from both sides bowling bouncers.”

Asked which side was the favourite, Dhoni said he didn’t bother with tags. Smith said India had “everything to lose” while his team had “everything to gain”, adding “not many teams have won in India and we really want to tick that box, If we can do that, it will be a massive feather in our caps.”

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