Dhoni ducks probing questions on his captaincy
India's under-fire skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni refused to be drawn into a debate over the split-captaincy theory, as suggested by former greats after his team's humiliating 1-2 Test series defeat against England.
"Your question on my view about split captaincy is good, but let's stick to T20 format, as we have a T20 game tomorrow," was Dhoni's curt reply, when a local reporter asked him about the hotly debated topic, in Pune, on Wednesday.
That Dhoni was trying to sidestep the issue was evident when he gave the same answer in a roundabout manner to a British journalist.
"Before the start of an important series, I don't want to comment on that. Because, when it comes to Indian cricket, if it's not going the right way, questions pop up about captaincy, senior players, junior players, the kind of talent we have got, the bench strength we have got. Everything will pop up and if you keep answering, I think, we will be short of time," was his reply to the query.
He repeatedly tried to evade tough questions on the team's failure.
"No point looking too much into the past. That I have always said, whether you do well or do badly, it is important to stick to the present and the coming format is very different. Let's stick to it.
"It's a completely different format, so I don't think there's any point carrying anything from the Test series. It's a very different format altogether," said Dhoni, presenting a dead bat to anything and everything asked about the just-concluded England Tests.
Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
'It's demanding to switch formats'
He saw some positives emerge from the Test loss to England, though.
"It was disappointing that we did not win the series and also after a long period at home. But in the last Test match (at Nagpur), we did pretty well. The wicket was quite flat. Still, there were plenty of positives (from the series).
"Youngsters like Cheteshwar Pujara, who I think is the future for us along with Virat Kohli, did well. You saw the bowlers did well, especially the spinners, when there was not much assistance from the wicket."
Dhoni said there are no indications from senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar, after the drawn game at Nagpur, about his future.
"No, nothing at all," he said, to an English scribe.
He said though it is demanding to switch over so fast from the longest to the shortest format of the game, the professionals that they are will have to make the shift.
"It's demanding to switch formats as Test cricket is totally different from T20 matches, but as international cricketers we are supposed to stand up to the demands of the game. Maybe, one more practice session would have helped, but this is the only one we have. So we have to make the most out of it."
'England are a balanced side irrespective of the format'
The dew factor may come in, said Dhoni, which may negate the effectiveness of the spinners, as the ball tends to skid and not grip the dew-laden surface.
"England are a balanced side irrespective of the format. It (condition) may be slightly different this time of the year with a bit of dew which may mean the spinners may not be that effective, but these are all speculations."
Dhoni said that after last season's IPL ties at this venue, a lot more matches had been held in the domestic tournaments and the wicket, that sported some uneven bounce when it was newly laid, must have settled down now.
"The stadium is fantastic, with excellent facilities. A fair amount of cricket has been going on and the wicket must have settled down. It will be a good track for the batsmen to score runs. Not a big outfield (boundaries) and the big shots will come into contention."
"The last time we played in IPL, there was variable bounce. If the wicket has settled, that shouldn't be the case," he remarked.
Dhoni said the fact that India won both their T20 games against the visitors in the World Twenty20 Championship and lost the other three bilateral games did not point to any specific pattern.
"We have won a few games and lost a few. In this format, it's just about a couple of players really changing the game. It's about enjoying the game, just getting that one run or making that one run-out which changes the game. I don't think it's proper to analyse the patterns in this format," he said.
'We are never bothered about the rankings'
He was also not bothered by the fact that India can go to the top of the ICC T20 rankings for the first time since it was introduced in 2011 if they win both their T20 games against England, here and in Mumbai on December 22, and the upcoming two games against Pakistan later this month.
"We are never bothered about the rankings. If we do well on the field the rankings take care of themselves. It's like I am repeating myself, but that's what I have always said."
Asked about absence of many England players from the IPL, he said the visitors have many talented players for the format but the issue was their availability for the entire duration of the tournament lasting 45-55 days.
"There are many talented England players for this format. But not many of them are available for the entire duration of the tournament which is what the francisees are concerned about."
Asked about Kevin Pietersen, in particular, and the demand for his services in the cash-rich league, Dhoni said not everyone can be KP.
"KP is a special player. Franchisees are willing to take a gamble even if he's available for 7 or 8 games in a season. You have to be that special (for franchisees to run after that player though he may not be available for the major part of the season)," said the India and Chennai Super Kings captain.