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Dhoni faces a big test

November 05, 2008 16:00 IST

If Barrack Obama's appointment as President of the United States is being hailed as the change of guard in the country's politics, it's pretty much the same feeling in Nagpur, where Mahendra Singh Dhoni has taken over as India's new Test captain.

Dhoni's appointment heralds a new chapter in Indian cricket, at a crucial juncture when senior players are on the threshold of retirement. The transition period may yet represent the biggest challenge in Dhoni's captaincy tenure, something he has quite successfully handled at the helm of the One-Day International team.

Anil Kumble's shock retirement left him with the difficult task of taking over the team in the middle of a series. Then, there are other distractions, like Sourav Ganguly's final Test drama and VVS Laxman's 100th Test.

It didn't help one bit when Gautam Gambhir's one-Test ban was upheld by the ICC, and his replacement, Murali Vijay, was forced upon him by the selectors.

But despite all that, Dhoni is quite confident of keeping control over things when the fourth and final Test begins at the new stadium in Nagpur on Thursday.

"This match is so important because we have played well in the series. We played well from the first match and that is why this is match is important. We need to stick to the basics and we need to do the things that we did from the very first game. I don't think there is any added pressure or added responsibility on the side. Whatever we have been doing till now we need to do the same," he said on Wednesday.

Dhoni led the Test team twice before in Kumble's absence, and in both instances emeged triumphant. He also has the experience of leading the ODI and Twenty20 team for the past year and with great success.

"There is no difference whether you are captain for one match or for the full series. You still have the same responsibility; so there is not much difference," he says, about being handed the captaincy of the Test side.

And the way he chose to brush off the distractions surrounding Ganguly's farewell drama and Laxman's impending milestone was commendable.

"You must look into the positives. If you are thinking 100th Test for VVS Laxman, then, on the positive side, he has played 99 Tests. In the same way, Sourav has played loads of Tests. So it is not a distraction for any of the guys; there are a lot of positives you can take from it. We just need to focus on the things we need to do. We have prepared well throughout the series, we have executed the plans well and I think this is the most important thing," he said.

With the pitch expected to be flat and full of runs, Dhoni believes reverse swing will prove to be a key factor.

"To start off, it looks like a normal Indian wicket without any grass and there won't be much help for the fast bowlers. At the same time, there is a good chance that the ball may reverse and the fast bowlers may come into action. Hopefully, the wicket will break up and assist the spinners," he said.

"It is crucial because the new ball doesn't do much; so it is important for the fast bowlers to come into action and make a big impact on the game. It is important to maintain the ball and to reverse the swing. If it doesn't swing, the only option is to maintain the ball and reverse swing. It is important and till now it has been important. I think we have maintained the ball well; you have to keep it nice and hard as well and, of course, dry also to keep the reverse swing going," he added.

India just need a draw to hand Australia their first series defeat since the 2005 Ashes. Going by how the home batsmen have performed in the series, and the flat pitch on offer at Nagpur, few will bet against India finishing with at least a draw to win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

The new stadium may find it hard to attract sizeable crowds if locals are to be believed. It is situated 16 kms away from the city; added to that the tickets are priced quite high, the cheapest being Rs 700.

Our Correspondent