Dhoni laments Sehwag's absence
India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Thursday lamented the absence of Virender Sehwag in the first two Tests against England, saying the opener is one of few players in the world who can influence the outcome of a game in a big way.
Sehwag, included in the squad of 17, is recovering after surgery on his right shoulder, and in his absence young Chennai opener Abhinav Mukund will open the innings with Gautam Gambhir, at least in the first two Tests.
"We, as a side, rely on our openers quite a bit. A good start helps our middle order capitalise on it. There aren't many cricketers in the world who impact a game like Sehwag does. We will miss him," Dhoni said, ahead of India's three-day tour opener game against Somerset, beginning Friday.
The first Test of the series is at Lord's, from July 21.
Image: India coach Duncan Fletcher chats with MS Dhoni during a net session in Taunton
Photographs: Getty Images
'We have to be at our very best'
He said it is vital for the openers to stand up to possibly the best international attack in the world.
"England is a very good side; they regularly get plenty of runs. They take 20 wickets. We have to be at our very best," he said.
He isn't weighed down by the fact that England, if it wins the series by a 2-0 margin, could displace India as number one Test team.
"The basis of sport is to enjoy it. A lot of times you don't enjoy sport while playing top class cricket. We don't want to get into it; the ratings aren't that important."
Dhoni was also not ready to be overwhelmed by England's strength and looked at a few positives due in next few weeks.
"In West Indies, it was difficult to consistently score runs. Shot-playing wasn't that easy. It could be different here. You can play shots. The outfield surely will be 200 miles faster than in the Caribbean which can be a great help to score runs," he said.
Over the next five weeks, in the four Tests, Indians can be assured of a huge support in the stands by the massive Asian population in the country.
He acknowledged it, but didn't think it would be the determining factor.
"Crowd support can push bowlers and batters to do that bit extra, but, frankly, it's up to 11 players playing the match, the bench strength and the support staff."
Dhoni sympathized with victims of the recent Mumbai blasts, expressing hope that their resilience would help Mumbaikars overcome the tragedy.
"It's a sad event. It would be sad even if it didn't happen in Mumbai. Hopefully, they will be soon be back at their best since Mumbai has resilience."
Fletcher impressed with the talent
Coach Duncan Fletcher was by the skipper's side and said he did not think he would come back to England in such a manner.
"Once I left England, I thought that's it. I did a bit of consultancy before the coaching bug bit me again. When this opportunity came along, I couldn't turn it down."
From his short stint with the Indians thus far, Fletcher is impressed how too much cricket, or lack of preparation, isn't much of an issue with his players.
"They have played a lot of cricket. There is also a lot of cricket ahead. They played a Twenty20 game within hours of arrival in the West Indies, then a one-day game after two days.
"Still, the way [Rahul] Dravid and [VVS] Laxman still prepare with intensity -- they might have played a lot of cricket but they don't show it. It doesn't seem to be an issue with this Indian side," he said.
Image: Duncan Fletcher during a practice session in Taunton
Photographs: M S Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher
Practice to as many players as possible
"In West Indies, I have never been involved with those kind of wickets, really spicy wickets; in Barbados, it seamed all five days. Yet the team won. It appeared in good space."
Fletcher hinted if rules and conditions permitted, he would like to field more than 11 players in the three-day game against Somerset.
"We would like to play 13-a-side. Since this is the only first class game, the idea is to give practice to as many players as possible. But if there is a MoU against it, we would stick by it."
Image: Sachin Tendulkar bats during a practice session in Taunton