Sport

Dhoni gives Kohli the edge over Raina in ‘slot war’

Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a problem of riches to deal with ahead of the World Cup, and he says in what is turning out to be a “slot war” instead of a competition for places, Virat Kohli has an edge over Suresh Raina.

In an all—win campaign in the practice matches, Dhoni has had a chance to test players and he said Kohli could be preferred over Raina in the number four slot. Dhoni said he also wants Yuvraj Singh in the playing eleven for the event starting February 19.

“Major difficulty will come when Yuvraj gets going and scores one or two 50s, that will be the time we will be in a dilemma. The number four slot is very important for us. Right now it is a slot war. It is the number four slot where Kohli needs to bat with Gautam Gambhir at number three,” Dhoni said after the 117 win over New Zealand in the second and final warm—up match here last night.

“To perform to his potential, Virat needs to bat up the order. That is where Raina can score batting down the order as well and he has done very well batting at number five and six.

So, it will be a slot war more than for a place in the playing eleven.

“Kohli is sort of a player who likes to spend little bit of time early and then go after the bowlers. Still, there is a bit of chance where Virat may get an edge over Raina seeing the current form he is in,” he added.

Talking about importance of having Yuvraj in the team, Dhoni said, “What is important is we are playing with four bowlers. A part—time spinner is really important especially if it is a left—arm away going spinner. That really adds on to the bowling strength, that’s the one big advantage he has got over others. Once he gets going, it is difficult to stop him (Yuvraj) from scoring runs.”

Asked whether he is worried that Yuvraj has not been scoring big in recent times, Dhoni explained, “Today, he did not get an opportunity. It would have been nice for him if he had batted. It is important to have runs under your belt. You may be talented but at the end of the day you need those 30 or 40 runs and then you start thinking positively. Then you look to dominate the bowlers.”

“The positive thing about Yuvraj is once he scores, he scores through the series. Being a left—arm bowler, he has been contributing right from South Africa, he has been a big strength for the team. If we play with three seamers and one spinner or two seamers or two spinners, Yuvraj role becomes important.

“He gives us the odd breakthroughs required in the middle overs. That is a big asset he has got where he edges over the others. If all the batsmen are in good form, I do not mind one batsman out of form. But the amount of talent he has got I will back him fully. We are not playing with seven bowlers,” said Dhoni.

On the decision to send Raina ahead of Yuvraj after he got himself promoted up the order, Dhoni said, “That was the decision taken by Gary (Kristen). I was in the middle (batting). Both of us were padded up. We wanted a left—right combination. Virat got out and that is the reason why I got promoted. If Gautam had been out, Yuvraj would have come in.”

“I feel batting at number five to seven is a bit difficult as you have to bat according to the demands of the game at that point of time. Especially when you see Virat in a good form, he can play to his potential if he is played up in the order rather than batting at five, six or seven,” he explained.

On the positives gained ahead of the World Cup, Dhoni said, “We have achieved whatever positives we can from practice games. From here on we have to start from scratch.

We are playing on February 19 and hope we will perform to our potential.”

On his own batting approach, Dhoni, who scored an explosive unbeaten 108 yesterday, said, “I wanted to spend more time in the wicket. In the last two three games, I tried to score off every delivery but one has to see the wicket whether the ball will come or not. I was pushing myself too much that was one of the reasons that I was getting out. I wanted to make the most out of this warm—up game.

“So, I said to myself that irrespective of whatever happens in the first 15—20 deliveries, I will be careful and after that I will look to score. My strength has always been like that. Even if my strike rate is initially 60 or 70, I can always accelerate. My main aim was to rotate the strike with my partners.”

Dhoni said whether Aswhin will get to play in the World Cup will depend on the conditions and pitches.

“I think Ashwin is a positive character and has tremendous belief in himself. Whatever variations he has got, he backs himself to bowl in those areas. What we have seen lately is that he can contribute with the bat also. That is a big positive. On making him play or leave him out, we will decide after seeing the wicket. We have to know whether the wicket will spin or not and then go with two pace and two spinners or two pacers and three spinners,” he said.

Insisting that he wants to back each and every player, Dhoni said, “We want to back each and every individual irrespective of the fact whether he has played ten years, eight years or just made his debut. What we try to do is not to let any player dropped from the side.”

“The core teams needs to be tight together. As far as Yuvraj is concerned he is among the senior—most players with the amount of experience he has got from 230—240 odd international games. He has got plenty of experience batting at four and he has come up the ranks from batting at number five or 6—7.

“It is a tough slot to perform because more often than not you don’t get a chance to perform because the top order contributes if you are playing in the sub—continent. It’s a plus to have him in your side. Big positive, big match player.

The tournament is happening in India and he will push himself to perform.”

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 5:22:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/Dhoni-gives-Kohli-the-edge-over-Raina-in-lsquoslot-warrsquo/article15448109.ece

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