IPL 2016: MS Dhoni plays down speculations of rift with Ravichandran Ashwin
Rising Pune Supergiants skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni rubbished any perceived differences with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin after the Indian skipper held him back in the Indian Premier League 9 opener against Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
Dhoni said Ashwin had bailed the team out on numerous occasions and praised his versatility with the ball. “As I have said, Ashwin has bailed me out in a lot of situations – whether bowling in first six or in the slog phase. He is a bowler who can come in and do well at any time,” Dhoni said, trying to clear the air about under-bowling the Tamil Nadu bowler, right from the start of the World T20.
Ashwin was brought on to bowl in the 16th over and then was immediately taken off despite the off-spinner striking in the over.
“It’s a subject, like revealing strategy. Ashwin is a matured bowler. He can bowl at any point of time. I knew the moment they (Mumbai Indians) lost a few wickets there was pressure on their middle or lower middle order,” Dhoni said at a media conference in Mumbai.
The Ranchi super star also explained how, with MI reeling at 30 for 4 inside five overs, he thought it was the ideal time to bring on debutant leg spinner Murugan Ashwin to bowl his full four-over quota and remove signs of nervousness from the youngster’s mind.
“It was a very good platform for leg spinner Ashwin (1 for 16) to come in. Since you watched the game, you would have seen he is not someone who bowls a lot of short deliveries, but he was feeling the pressure.
“I thought it was more important for me to give him those four overs as in the longer run I need him as a wicket taking option, and I felt at that point of time if I can give him the four overs it will give him the confidence to come back probably in the second and third game,” he said.
“It was a process of giving him confidence, but at the same time we were attacking from the other end, Rajat Bhatia was bowling well using the conditions, that was the reason.
“(Ravi) Ashwin bowled one over and after that I thought going with fast bowlers was a better option,” he said.
Dhoni’s under-utilisation of the off-spinner in the WT20 semi-final against the West Indies on March 31 here and yesterday fuelled speculations that differences have cropped up between the two players.
To add fuel to the fire was Ashwin’s answer in the pre-IPL game media conference here on April 7, when he said he did not bowl when the dew had come into play a significant role in the lost semi-final against eventual World T20 champions, the West Indies.
Dhoni, after the loss to the Windies, had said that he did not call on Ashwin to bowl again after giving him two overs initially, in which he went for 20 runs and also bowled a no-ball off which Man-of-the-Match Lendl Simmons was caught and then recalled to the crease, as he felt dew was making the ball wet and making things difficult for the spinners to grip.
First game for Pune an ’emotional moment’
He said not playing for suspended IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings, which he had captained for the last 8 years since the T20 league inception in 2008 was an “emotional moment”.
“As I said it was, I knew I would play for the Pune team but the actual moment comes when you start walking with the team-sheet in your hand till that point of time it’s only practise and everything.
“It was a very emotional moment…since I have started playing T20 cricket represented the Indian cricket team, Jharkhand team in few tournaments and CSK for eight years, so it was a emotional moment not to see myself in yellow,” he quipped.
“But at the same time as professionals, we have to move ahead and also not to prove to anyone but to prove a point to myself that I am making sure whatever I gave in for CSK, I am not leaving any inch that I am not giving for the Pune team,” he said.
“So emotion set aside as professional, we had or I had to make sure that I am there how I was for CSK,” he said.
“So it was a very emotional moment but at the same time I think…the faith that the franchise has shown not only in me but some of the other players also, we need to justify that,” he said.
Dhoni, in fact, started answering questions at the promotional event with a preamble that if he is asked good questions today the number of questions he will be willing to answer to the media would go up next time and if not it will come down back to nil.
“Depending on the quality of questions you ask it may go up to six in the next (such press conference) or come back to zero,” he said before answering questions.