Cardiff, June 6: Captain MS Dhoni preferred to keep it as a "top secret" when asked about the team combination for the Champions Trophy opener against South Africa here on Thursday.
Ahead of the opening match of the Champions Trophy 2013, Dhoni spoke to the media about the side's warm-up wins, Dinesh Karthik's form, new set of ODI rules among other things.
Here are the excerpts from the press conference on Wednesday (June 5)
Question: Yesterday's big win (against Australia), how much of is that relevant now?
Dhoni: I think it's a good performance overall. Batting we didn't get off to a good start, but it was nice to see our partnership going in the middle of the event, and we were able to capitalise on that and get runs in the second powerplay and also the slog.
So, from the game, you can take a change a bit with the introduction of the new laws, the two new balls and also the fact that you have the one less fielder inside the rest of the oval, which means even if you have a wicket in hand, you can really exploit the conditions and get a lot of runs. So most of the teams, I think, they'll see a bit of a change in their approach. They'll try to keep their wickets intact in the first 10 (overs), the new ball may do a bit.
Considering all these things, I think the new ball performance in the last game was really good. There was not much swing for them, but there was really a good pace and it was important that the ball was really close to the off-stump mark. I think all in all they did that. If you see the complete picture, I think it was a good performance.
Q: Can you give us some idea of the balance of the side for game against South Africa?
Dhoni: They keep it top secret as always. But as I said, with the new rules, the five fielders outside, I think it will be very difficult to play with four bowlers and rely on the part-timers
Q: As world champions you also enjoy the largest fan base for a team in England and Wales. So, how are the expectations in Cardiff, does it become very high?
Dhoni: That's an interesting one because if you don't have fans, people say you missed the home condition or the support of the fans. When you have the fans, people talk about the burden of expectation. So, I think when it comes to the Indian cricket team, level play in a situation where there is no pressure or the burden of expectation of the fans following. When you play warm-up games we are expected to win. It's all about getting the most out of the warm-up games. The reason being people say, oh, they didn't win the warm-up games; they only win the series games. And then when you win it, they say it's only warm-up games, so it doesn't matter. We always welcome the double-edged sword, you can say. We just have to balance it in the right way.
Q: What is your opinion of the South Africa side and how the absence of Jacques Kallis will affect South Africa?
Dhoni: Well, if you see Jacques Kallis is someone that is very difficult to replace, he's one of the greatest all-rounders in the cricketing history. So it lends on to the balance of the side. Even without him, still South Africa is a very good side. There will be quite a few new fresh players that have been part of the South African team for quite some time. So I think it's an ideal exposure for them also.
When it comes to the talent aspect, they are one of the best in the world. And the Champions Trophy, the best teams play, so I think none of the teams you can just take them for granted. So, I think each and every team is well balanced, and they're looking good.
Q: It's a relatively new opening combination from the last time the team played through here. Are you slightly worried in that department?
Dhoni: Well, we need to see their performance and then get worried. I don't think it's ideal to speculate saying whether they'll do well or does not do well? I think let them go on to the field and let them perform or not perform and then you can see how it goes.
Q: Could you talk about Dinesh Karthik?
Dhoni: I always believe he's someone who can bat really, really well in the middle of the order. The reason being he's a good runner. He reads the situation pretty well, and he's someone who can look to go on and play big innings, and that is what is really important in the middle order. You have to get off to a good start.
He's technically sound, which means he has all the right talent to get going, and once he gets going, he's someone who keeps himself busy throughout the innings. So I personally feel he's someone who is really good to have in the site.
Last time, I'm not 100% sure where he batted, because in the last couple of years I've always stressed that the people and the players they need to bat in a specialist position where they really suit themselves and the team. In the past we have played a few players on different slots, more according to the fact that we said they'll do well but that was not the route or original slot.
I think it's the same for DK also. He's someone that should bat at 4 or 5, 3 also, but definitely not someone who should bat at 6 or 7. So I think we'll try to give people their respective position, but we have to see according to what the need is really for the team.
Q: Especially in these conditions, and the new balls at this site, how crucial is that going to be?
Dhoni: I think the fast bowlers will play a very important role. If you see the game the way it has progressed, you see the statistics, more often than not what we're finding in the first 10 overs most of the batsmen are happy to get 40 to 45-odd runs and keep as many wickets intact as possible. Then after that, the fifth fielder inside, throughout you can look to accelerate a bit, and that loss of extra 20 runs in the first 10 or 15 runs, can you really make up and have wickets in hand and you'll end up getting more than that.
I think that will be the strategy for most of the teams. They look to save a run and get a bit more to the fast bowlers initially, and once they get going, they look to capitalize on that.
That is one of the main reasons why we have seen if somebody gets going or the side gets going, more often than not they'll end up scoring 300-plus runs.
Q: One thing is India has not lost to South Africa in ICC Champions Trophy. Do you think this is something that weighs into your thinking? And how important will Umesh Yadav be considering he's the one who destroyed a very good Australian batting?
Dhoni: I just got aware of the fact - you told me a fact or a stat that they have not beaten us in Champions Trophy. I was not really aware of that. But as I always say, it is a fresh start, so we have to do all the right things right again. So we hope it goes in our favour, but just because a fact is in our favour doesn't really mean we'll win the game.
Umesh Yadav is definitely someone who is the quickest when it comes to our side and our bowling department, so he's someone that can rush batsman, the top of the batsman, also the fact that he can swing the ball, so he will be really effective. Just he has to maintain his composure and bowl in the right areas and not look for that extra pace. Without that he'll be very effective.
Q: Before you left India you said you want to have the ICC Champions Trophy trophy in your cabinet. Are there any distractions going forward?
Dhoni: None of the trophy goes to my cabinet. What you need to realise is it's for Team India. So I think these are all the stuff that we're not even thinking about or does not even cross our minds. What we are really looking forward to is the challenge. This is the first time we'll be playing under the new set of rules outside India, and we need to adapt quickly and see how our balls are reacting and also the bowlers and the difference there. So that's what we are looking forward to.