'Dhoni has got his own ways of captaining the Indian team.'
'He might not give out details or might not explain, but in his mind he knows very well how to captain the side, which players to pick and the right combination for a particular condition.'
Former India batsman Mohammad Kaif speaks to Harish Kotian/Rediff.com about the World T20 contest.
Former India batsman Mohammad Kaif believes that though India are favourites at next month's World T20, the dangerous West Indies are also strong contenders for the title.
"All the (Indian) batsmen are in top form and they have been able to get their bowling attack right in the last few months," Kaif told Rediff.com in Mumbai where he is doing commentary for the Under-19 Cricket World Cup for Star Sports.
Kaif, who played 13 Tests and 125 ODIs after making his international debut in 2000, is famously remembered for his innings of 87 not out in the 2002 Natwest Series final. With Yuvraj Singh at the other end, Kaif helped India chase down England's 326 to win the game.
Kaif believes the West Indies are one of the top contenders for the title because the 2012 T20 champions have a host of players who play T20 cricket round the year in various leagues across the world.
"You can never rule out the West Indies," he says, "because they have firepower in their bowling and they have some of the world's most dangerous T20 batsmen."
"I hope the West Indies pick their best team for the World T20. They have players like Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo who are capable of winning the match single-handedly. They are a dangerous team in T20 cricket and no one will take them lightly."
"Most of the West Indians are always playing T20 cricket, like the IPL (the Indian Premier League), the Big Bash, in South Africa, England and elsewhere. Most of their players know this T20 format very well and it also suits their game very well. The conditions in India are somewhat similar, the wickets are slow here much like the wickets you get in the West Indies nowadays. So the conditions will suit their style of play."
Kaif also felt that Pakistan and Sri Lanka are teams to watch out for. "You can't rule out sub-continental teams. The conditions in India are similar to what can be found in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, so it would be like playing at home for them."
"Their spinners will come into play," he added, "and their batsmen will be in a comfort zone. Back home they also play on similar pitches and are used to it."
Kaif, 35, believes the arrival of pacer Jasprit Bumrah and veteran Ashish Nehra's comeback are a big boost for the Indian bowling attack.
"If you notice, Dhoni is happy with the bowling performances, which is very rare. When he does praise the bowlers it means he is a comfort zone. He knows that the batsmen are going to deliver because we have one of the best batting line-ups in the world."
"All the top players are in top form and have been scoring a lot of runs recently, so Dhoni knows that the batsmen will play their roles," Kaif said.
"His (Dhoni's) big concern over the years has been his bowlers. The arrival of Bumrah, the comeback of Nehra after a long time, getting in Hardik Pandya as an all-rounder and the two spinners in Ashwin (Ravichandran) and (Ravindra) Jadeja who have done well in the middle overs, has made Dhoni a lot more confident about the bowling attack."
"Maybe, inside him, Dhoni also knows that India are favourites and can win the World Cup."
Explaining Dhoni's style of captaincy, Kaif observed that India's skipper likes to know his bowlers well and Pawan Negi's stint at the Chennai Super Kings titled the scales in the bowler's favour for the World T20.
"Dhoni has got his own ways of captaining the Indian team. He might not give out details or might not explain, but in his mind he knows very well how to captain the side, which players to pick and the right combination for a particular condition."
"Dhoni wants to know his bowlers very well. Nehra played under Dhoni at the Chennai Super Kings. Negi also played in the same team. Dhoni knows the two bowlers can play a big role for India in T20 cricket. He knows their weaknesses and strong points and how to use them effectively, especially in Indian conditions and that is why he has gone for them."
Kaif believes that rookie Negi could be a valuable player in the T20 format with his ability to contribute with both bat and ball, despite not having a good record in domestic cricket.
"Negi has not done much in domestic cricket. He is not even the first choice for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy and he doesn't play many matches for them. But in the T20 format Negi can be very effective. He can bowl a few overs of spin, he can field well and can hit the big shots when needed."
Virat Kohli, Kaif said, has a big role to play at the World T20.
"He is a big player. He relishes playing in big games, big tournaments. He likes to dominate the bowlers and win matches for his team. He wants to be that player who makes the difference for his team."
"Kohli's got the form, he is having a dream run right now," Kaif said. "He has been consistent in all formats. He is the complete package as far as batting is concerned. I am sure he will play a big role for India at the World T20."