India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni today said they will badly miss "street-smart" Praveen Kumar in the upcoming World Cup as the pacer has been ruled out of cricket's showpiece event due to an elbow injury.
Praveen, who has been a vital cog in India's ODI scheme of things for a little over three years and was certain in India's seam attack in the World Cup, was ruled out on Monday after failing to recover from an elbow injury which he sustained during the South Africa tour.
"It is very unfortunate that Praveen had to miss the World Cup. He featured consistently in the ODIs for us. He is a street-smart cricketer and we will miss him a lot," Dhoni said during a pre-tournament press conference here.
"But you can't really restrict injuries from happening to players," he added.
Without mentioning the names, he also indicated that Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar all have recovered from their injuries and will be totally fit by the time India play their tournament-opener against Bangladesh in Dhaka on February 19.
"A few players are suffering from slight niggles, which is always there but nothing serious. Hopefully, nothing major happens to any player," the skipper said.
The World Cup has come in for its share of criticism from some quarters for its length which spans around 45 days, but Dhoni reiterated that a perfect scheduling is always difficult to churn out and the rest period between matches will help the players to recover from their niggles.
"As I have said earlier it is very difficult to form a perfect schedule and format. A tournament schedule will be either too long or too short but I am quite happy with the schedule. It will give us time to recover from small niggles," he insisted.
Dhoni also reiterated that pressure for his side is added responsibility and will not be a deterrent in their World Cup quest after 28 long years.
"It (pressure) is an added responsibility. Whenever you play for India there is always pressure. But the good thing is that we have a very experienced team. Most of the guys have been there for 5-7 years and know how to handle pressure. We have some talented youngsters who can change the course of any game," he said.
Asked about the heavy burden of responsibility on his own shoulders in the tournament, the wicket-keeper batsman said, "I have been doing it for the last four-and-a-half, five years."
He refused to give importance to the fact that the World Cup is being held at home after 15 years and said the event is just any other tournament for the Indian team.
"There is a lot of hype and expectation around the World Cup. But every series we have played so far there is always lot of expectation. Expectations will always be there but we need to consider it just as a big tournament," Dhoni said.
The Indian skipper said to taste success in the World Cup what India needs is right strategies and not worry about other factors.
"It is very important to have right strategy, always be ready with Plan B or Plan C and at the same time not taking any added pressure," he pointed out.
Asked whether India will prefer to bat or chase in the placid sub-continent pitches during the World Cup, Dhoni said, "it is always better to bat first and let the opposition chase."
Emphasizing on the need to play good cricket during the 45 days of the tournament, Dhoni said the composition of the playing eleven would be decided only after assessing all external factors and opposition at the other end.
"We need to see in what (condition) we are playing, how the wicket is. If the wicket is slow we might be tempted to play three spinners. What we also need to see is the dew in the field as the climate is much cooler now," he said.
He was also delighted to see the competition in the team for places in the playing eleven.
"People fighting for one spot is always good."
Asked whether the team had special feeling for the tournament, which expectantly is coach Gary Kirsten's last assignment with the Indian cricket team and also swansong World Cup for batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, the skipper replied in the negative.
"Feel is the same irrespective of what is the position. We are concentrating on our preparation rather than thinking about other things. We are quite good at distracting ourselves from all issues," Dhoni said.
He also said that as of now all the 12 countries have equal chances but as the tournament progresses the sub-continent teams will have an edge because of the climatic conditions.
"It is cooler now but as we come to the middle of the tournament it will be hotter," he added.
With four formidable and three not-so-strong teams featuring in both the pools, many are of the view that the real excitement and competitiveness in the World Cup will start only from the quarterfinals but the Indian captain feels otherwise.
"For us the World Cup will start from game one and not quarter-finals. Many are saying that group matches will be boring but these small (teams) surprised in the 2007 World Cup. So wait and watch what they can do," Dhoni said.
Asked about potential threat for India, he refused to pinpoint any country and said all the teams will approach tournament with a positive frame of mind.
"All the teams are dangerous. As a team it is always better to back your strength. I think most of the teams will go with a strong bowling attack," Dhoni said.
Terming himself a big fan of ODI cricket, Dhoni said powerplay is a thing to watch out for in the World Cup.
"I am a big fan of 50-over cricket. It is a mix of Test cricket and T20. You see glimpses of both Test and T20 in ODIs. I love ODIs but it doesn't mean I don't like Test or T20."
India to Miss Street-Smart Praveen in World Cup: Dhoni
Saumojyoti S Choudhury/Bangalore
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