We knew Afridi would open, says Dhoni

Published: Monday, November 12, 2007, 3:35 [IST]
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Kanpur: Victorious Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was all praise for his deputy Yuvraj Singh who played a big role in India's 46-run win over arch rivals Pakistan in the third one-dayer at the Green Park here yesterday.

Man-of-the-match Yuvraj made a valuable contribution of 77 runs and was involved in a crucial 100-run stand for the fifth wicket.

Later, he took the important wicket of Pakistani captain Shoaib Malik, besides effecting a run out of dangerous Mohammad Yousuf with a direct throw at the non-striker's end from the gully.

''Yuvraj is batting really well. The wicket was tough and he negotiated the Pakistani slow bowlers well and came out with a valuable contribution,'' Dhoni told reporters at the post match press conference.

''Pakistan has a good bowling attack but he (Yuvraj) came out on top. He kept on rotating strike on a difficult pitch with the ball sometimes not coming on to the bat,'' Dhoni added.

The Indian captain also said that the presence of senior pros like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly helped the team immensely, with the experienced hands giving valuable inputs and taking the burden off from him.

On Sehwag, who was left out of the playing eleven with left-arm spinner Murali Kartik coming in his place, Dhoni said there was nothing to read on that and the decision was taken by the team management after taking into account the nature of the pitch.

''He (Sehwag) is a class player, he will come back,'' he said.

Dhoni also said the team management anticipated that Shahid Afridi would be promoted up the order as opener considering his 45-ball hundred in April 2005, the last time the two teams met here.

''We anticipated Afridi could be promoted, so we decided to utilise Irfan Pathan's accuracy and made him open the bowling along with RP Singh. That paid off,'' the Indian skipper said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik also gave full credit to Yuvraj and Dhoni for the win.

''We thought we would restrict India to 250 but Yuvraj and Dhoni batted well in the middle overs to set up a big total for India,'' he said.

When asked what was the turning point of the match, Malik said dropping Yuvraj midway in the Indian innings had cost his side dearly.

Yuvraj was dropped by Salman Butt in the 29th over when the Punjab batsman was on 26.

Malik also termed the confrontation between Gautam Gambhir and Shahid Afridi during the Indian innings as a ''small issue'' which is not to be bothered about much.

''I had spoken to Gambhir and Afridi and there is nothing much on such small things. Such things keep happening in international cricket,'' he said of the incident in the 20th over when Gambhir collided with Afridi, the bowler, while trying to run for a single.

A few uncharitable words seemed to have been exchanged and umpire Ian Gould had to intervene to pacify the two cricketers and Malik was also called in to handle the issue.

The Pakistani captain also defended his decision to field first on a pitch which was thought to be a batting paradise, saying, ''When I saw the pitch in the morning, there was some moisture on it, so I thought we would take advantage of it,'' he said.

Malik said there are two more matches to come and Pakistan are not finished yet in the five-match series. The fourth ODI is scheduled for Gwalior on November 15 while the fifth and final match will be held at Jaipur on November 18.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh cricketers RP Singh and Piyush Chawla, who were part of the Indian team which won the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, were presented Rs 10 lakh each by Chief Minister Mayawati at the presentation ceremony. RP Singh also presented the Chief Minister a cricket bat signed by all the members of the Indian squad.


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