Mumbai: Terming the return of Gautam Gambhir as “a big relief”, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Thursday said that the Indian team should not only rely on their powerful batting but also lift their bowling and fielding standards if they nurtured hopes of winning the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy.
“Over the last one and a half years, we have been given solid platform at the top by three players — Gautam (Gambhir), Virender Sehwag and Sachin (Tendulkar). So, to know that Gautam is back is a big relief,” Dhoni said on the eve of the team’s departure to South Africa.
Gambhir, who missed the tri-series in Sri Lanka with a groin injury, underwent a fitness test here on Thursday and was declared fit to play the eight-nation event in South Africa from September 22 to October 5.
India are in the same pool as Australia, Pakistan and the West Indies, while New Zealand, Sri Lanka, England and hosts South Africa comprise the other pool. Top two teams from each group advance to the semi-finals.
Dhoni said the team, which is currently ranked world No. 3, still had certain weaknesses.
“We have played well in patches but not consistently. Definitely we can improve our bowling, especially in the middle and slog overs,” he said.
Fielding is another area where the team has been found wanting. “We were good in fielding but have gone down a bit. We have missed run outs and dropped easy chances (in Sri Lanka),” Dhoni said.
“It’s a bit of a concern and we are putting in a lot of effort. But you cannot get better overnight; need to work on it constantly.”
Dhoni said Ishant Sharma had a crucial role to play in his new role as the first-change bowler in the tournament.
“If he (Ishant) is bowling first-change, he is going to bowl the last two overs of the first Powerplay and then again in the slog overs, both at a time when the batsmen are looking to have a go at you,” he said.
“He might be going for 65 or 70 runs in 10 overs… But he is a bowler who can make a difference. He has done well in Tests, ODIs and T20s. Let’s hope for the best.”
Dhoni said Rahul Dravid, who was recalled from one-day oblivion, would lend the much-needed solidity to the middle order.
“It’s always good to have a player who has faced such situations and conditions. He (Dravid) will be a big asset to the team,” he said.
“The team has some flashy players… And when you have Rahul (Dravid) coming in at No. 3, especially in South Africa which helps the fast bowlers, it would the ideal way to give the strokemakers a good platform.”
Speaking on India’s clash with Pakistan in the group stages in South Africa, Dhoni said: “We will take every team, every game seriously. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Australia or Pakistan,” he said.
Dhoni said the experience gained by playing the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in South Africa would not be much of a help to the teams.
“The wickets will be different. It will be the start of the season and the wickets will be fresh, which was not the case during the IPL,” he said.
“The fast bowlers will get movement but I don’t expect major seaming wickets. Hopefully the wickets will be sporting.”
Speaking on the fast pitches in South Africa, Dhoni said that not only India, but the others too will face a problem.
“When bowlers with 140 kmph speed come up with bouncers, it is not just the Indians, but any batsman would find it difficult,” he said.
Despite the bowler-friendly conditions, Dhoni did not see the Indians opting for a five-bowler combination.
“Generally, we have gone in with four specialists and a part-time bowler with options in Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Virender Sehwag,” he said.
The idea is to accommodate an extra batsman,” he added.