Good chance for young players to get counted: Dhoni

India captain MS Dhoni oozed confidence that substitute players would come to the party in the ODI series against South Africa starting here on Sunday.

updated: February 20, 2010 12:52 IST
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India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni sees no point in whining about how injury-ravaged his side is and oozed confidence that substitute players would come to the party in the ODI series against South Africa starting here on Sunday.

Dhoni conceded the team would miss the likes of Zaheer Khan (leg), Gautam Gambhir (groin) and Yuvraj Singh (wrist) through injury and Harbhajan Singh because of his sister's marriage but asserted the substitutes have it in them to deliver the goods.

"The confidence of the team is good. As far as missing a few players is concerned, we are missing some player or the other in every series," Dhoni said after the team's net session at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.

"I think it is a good opportunity for young players to prove that they belong to the international level. Besides, it also gives you the chance to test your bench strength," he said.

"We will see whatever the best combination we can pick according to the situation and the wicket. We will miss a few players but whatever players we have in the team, they all have done well whenever given a chance. I don't think it should be a big worry and whoever gets a chance will do well," Dhoni said.

Dhoni said Harbhajan would have been useful against the South Africans, whom he tormented in Kolkata but nothing could be done about the off-spinner's absence.

"Harbhajan is a great spinner. He bowls well and does both the roles -- containing as well taking wickets. Of course we will miss him but hopefully everything would go well," he said.

Talking about the bowling unit, Dhoni said the abundunce of part-timers would help the team's cause against South Africa.

"You can say we have quite a few batsmen who can bowl. We are still searching for the perfect all-rounder, a fast bowling all-rounder, because it balances the team combination.

"In this side it is good that we have batsmen who can bowl like (Virender) Sehwag, Abhishek Nayyar, Yusuf Pathan, (Ravindra) Jadeja and Suresh Raina. So we have quite a few batsmen who can bowl. There is some extra help in case one of your regular bowler is struggling," he said.

Dhoni also hinted that Uttar Pradesh seamer Praveen Kumar is in with a good chance of playing the first ODI of the three-match series on Sunday.

"If you see Praveen, he has not got the pace. He is not an express bowler but I feel he is a street-smart cricketer. The change in length, speeds and the variation that he has got and the amount of cricket that he has played really helps him," he said.

With Zaheer out of action, Dhoni said Ashish Nehra would have to mentor the young seamers.

"Ashish Nehra is an experienced cricketer and has been around the circuit for a long time. It helps when you have one experienced guy like him. If you see our bowling department right now, it is not a very experienced bowling line up. So Ashish will definitely have an effect on other bowlers when it comes to grooming them," the Indian skipper explained.

Overall, Dhoni felt, Indian bowling was good enough to trouble the visiting team.

"Jadeja has played a few games and we have (R) Ashwin and (Amit) Mishra also. I think the bowling strength is decent. If you compare it to the one which had Zaheer or Harbhajan, it is a big difference but at the same time it is up to the individuals how they shape up for the game," he said.

Asked if he would like to play purely as a batsman, leaving the wicket-keeping job to Dinesh Karthik, Dhoni said, "I am not a very good fielder so you won't see me do that. Dinesh is anyways a better fielder than me. So it is always better, when we both are playing, that I keep wickets and he fields."

Asked for his view on the pitch, Dhoni said, "It's a normal sub-continental wicket. The dew will also be a factor because it is cold in the evenings. So spinners would find it difficult in the latter part of the match."

On what could be a par score here, Dhoni said, "A lot depends on what happens on that particular day. Loads of runs have been scored whenever we have played here but at the end of the day you have to see what kind of start you get."

Dhoni said the South Africans would prove a tough customer even though he felt they would miss regular skipper Graeme Smith who returned home with a finger injury.

"The South Africans are very even balanced side, they have good fielders in the side, good bowlers and batsmen who can capitalise. They are a very good side and we are expecting three very good one-dayers.

"(Missing the captain) does affect every side. They will be a bit affected because he (Smith) is rated among their top openers. At the same time, they can't help it and any player who plays in Smith's place will be under pressure," he said.

On whether the team had any strategy to contain Hashim Amla, who was South Africa's run-machine in the recent Test series, Dhoni said, "We keep making strategies and there are times when it doesn't work. It was not that we didn't plan against Amla in Tests but he batted quite well in the series.

"You do plan things and execute them but at the same time that other individual also changes his game accordingly. We are quite prepared but at the same time we have to see what works and what does not work."