Dhoni dismisses fitness concerns ahead of Boxing Day Test

December 24th, 2011 - 7:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan Singh Melbourne, Dec 24 (IANS) India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has shrugged off fitness concerns in his team ahead of the first Test against Australia, beginning here Monday, and stressed the importance of starting the Boxing Day match well.

The fitness of India’s premier fast bowlers Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma has been under doubt after their showing in the warm-up games in Canberra. Zaheer is returning to big time cricket after recovering from a hamstring injury while Sharma decided to have an ankle surgery at the end of the Australia tour.

Dhoni said the team management has taken all possible precautions to keep the pace duo injury free and hoped that they don’t break down in the middle of the tour.

“We have missed Zaheer quite a few times in the past. We gave them (Ishant and Zaheer) some time off. They bowled in the practice game as well as in the net sessions. They are shaping up well. There are two more days and we know a lot can happen in that time frame. Hopefully, they would all be available for selection,” Dhoni said at the pre-match press conference at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) Saturday.

“We have tried to take as much precaution as we could to make sure they stay injury-free. They both have also played their part, they worked outside the field also, in the gym and the rehab sessions they needed to do. They have put in a lot of effort in practice.”

Dhoni said the whole squad is fit and the two practice games have helped them prepare well for the crunch series. He went on to say that they must start well in the first Test.

“How we start in the first Test is important. We want to be in the moment, break the match into sessions, try to win more sessions than the opposition. If we win enough sessions, then we will win the match. We want to do the small things right and not think where we want to be at the end of the fourth Test.”

“There is no point in taking that extra pressure. It will not help us. We need to keep it simple,” said Dhoni.

The last series in Australia saw controversies with Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds getting into a verbal spat during the Sydney Test, making the atmosphere on the field tense throughout the four Tests.

Dhoni, before leaving for Down Under, had made it clear that he would like to see a controversy free tour. He reiterated the same thing here.

“Individuals do make mistakes. But as a professional cricketer, you don’t want it. There is a lot at stake in the series, people look up to you, so you want it controversy-free. Having said that, it is important you make it interesting,” said Dhoni while referring to the 2008 “Monkeygate” involving Symonds and Harbhajan.

Dhoni played down the huge hype surrounding Tendulkar’s 100th hundred, saying everyone including the master blaster will be relieved if he reaches the milestone in the series.

“Sachin keeps it simple. He would get it, sometime in this or the next Test, this or the next series. It is on the way. But if he gets it soon, everyone would feel relieved.”

“Getting 100 hundreds is something really big. He has played more international cricket than we have even practiced. He also shares a lot with youngsters who are new to the side. Everyone in the world would cherish the moment when he gets the hundred,” Dhoni said.

On the venue of the first Test, Dhoni said: “It is massive, a really big ground. We have seen batsmen have run four - even five is possible - if the fielder is slow. You run a lot of singles here which puts pressure on the fielders.”

“Therefore, fielding becomes very important. We have got quite a few good fielders in the outfield and we want to ensure good catching in the slips.”

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