Speaking to mediapersons on the eve of the match, Dhoni said, ''I think these are a lot of positives going into this game. VVS Laxman's 100th Test match means he has played 99 Test matches for India, which lends essential experience to the side. It's Sourav Ganguly's last Test match, which also means he has played loads of cricket.'' However, India's bigger concern is the absence of opener Gambhir, who has been in sensational form in this series. The ICC decided to stick to the one-Test match ban slapped on the batsman after he elbowed Shane Watson in Delhi.
Dhoni further said the late decision to uphold Gambhir's ban did unsettle the side. ''He (Gambhir) has been crucial in this series because he was the form man for us. We have capitalised hugely with the starts he has given us,'' he said adding, ''for now his replacement M Vijay will get his first Test cap tomorrow.'' The skipper said, ''In a way we have been lucky as Vijay fills into his role well because he has been playing well in domestic cricket. We have been lucky in the way that the people who were asked to fill in during various situations have stood up and performed, although it's different in a normal scenario.'' Vijay, who was in the middle of a Ranji Trophy tie in which he scored a double century, was flown in yesterday as a replacement for Gambhir, whose one-Test ban was upheld by the ICC Appeals Commissioner.
The Indian captain, who took over from Anil Kumble who abruptly announced his retirement after the third Test in Delhi, said the senior members of the side will all speak to Vijay as a last-minute motivation. ''He has only joined the side today so we all seniors will speak to him one by one. However, we have to make sure that we don't pressurise him. The opponents always look to pressurise a new player. But he seems to be confident because he has been doing well.'' The Tamil Nadu youngster Vijay had a long outing in the practice nets, where he faced all Indian bowlers. The opener has been a prolific scorer in his short first-class career.
Dhoni also allayed fears about senior Rahul Dravid not training today, saying that Dravid was unable to train with the rest of the team because of flu, but added that he would be fit in time for the match.
With a 1-0 lead going into the fourth and final Test here, India are bracing up for what perhaps is their biggest Test in a number of years. ''The reason why this is such an important game is because we have played so well to be in this position, and we just need to do the same things that we have been doing all through this series. So there is no added pressure on us and we hope that we can contribute to the team to our full potential.'' The skipper also highlighted the role of reverse swing in the series so far, and its possible implication on the series decider.
''Reverse swing would be crucial because it looks like a typical Indian wicket. There is a good chance of reverse swing and spin will also come to play as the game goes on,'' he said.
''Over the course of this series, the new ball hasn't done too much. Thus it's important for the fast bowlers to maintain the ball to utilise the reverse swing. It has no doubt been one of the differences in the series because we have maintained the ball well,'' the skipper added.