Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Friday (August 26) said that India’s two-match Twenty20 International series against West Indies in Florida will be the ‘perfect stage’ to launch cricket in the United States of America.
Talking to reporters on the eve of the first game, the Indian limited-overs captain lauded the facilities at Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill.
“The facilities are as good as anywhere you will get in the world,” said Dhoni. “The stadium as such is not that big as anywhere else in the world when it comes to crowd capacity. However, the playing area looks perfect. A few other nations and the CPL T20 league has been played here, so certainly the infrastructure looks really good. The conditions are warm and humid, but perfect for cricket.
“We have to look at it as a new venture in the USA. It’s a perfect staging ground to launch this initiative since USA is always a big market because of the presence of the subcontinent diaspora and I feel it’s a good start. We have seen the diaspora come and support us in the Caribbean and now they have an opportunity to see us here. It’s a big occasion for us too since the Indian team is stepping in to the USA for the first time. The TV time is also good for viewers back home and most of the other countries that want to watch the games.”
Dhoni, however, denied that the history associated with the occasion will be an added pressure on the team, as his side is expected to win all games anyway.
“There is always one expectation when it comes to the Indian team – that is to win,” he said. “Beyond that, there is not a whole lot (different). The Indian community has always supported us and now they have a chance to see us in person. I was asking a few of my friends here ‘Why do you have three satellite dishes’? The reply was ‘One of them is the main and the other one is the backup’ and I asked ‘Why the third one’? They said that’s the backup’s backup! That shows they really love cricket and they are mad about it and they are religiously following it and that is very nice to know. I’m sure we will be entertaining them this weekend and meet their expectations.”
Dhoni, who retired from Tests in December 2014, was in the midst of a prolonged break when this was announced. Apart from promoting his biopic, Dhoni said he utilised his off-time by working on his fitness.
“I had ample time off from cricket. So I was keeping myself busy with fitness,” he said. “What becomes tricky is the lack of cricket. We had a lot of rain back in India and most of the schedule was confined to indoors and bowling machines. Other than that, there was not much I could do outside. I feel good and my body feels good. Of course, our season is going to be busy with all the Test matches scheduled and there is only limited opportunity to play T20 and One-Day International cricket. So I want to make useof whatever I get. I would like to make use of these two days to get as much as I can.”
The series against West Indies will also be the first time Dhoni will work with Anil Kumble, India’s new coach. Having played with and under the legendary legspinner in the past, Dhoni was full of praise for Kumble and looked forward to the new association.
“I learnt a lot playing with him,” he said. “I was not a great wicketkeeper to begin with. But keeping to Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh made me better. I was fascinated about how he sets up and bowls to batsman. He made it easy for me. He always wanted the batsman to play and my job was to catch an edge or stump the guy out when he misses the ball. I was amazed with his consistency, thinking aspect and ability to change plans.
“I’m sure that will certainly help him as a coach and that’s what modern cricket is all about – changing plans. He is a straightforward guy and says things as it is on your face. I have been speaking to him for the last couple of days and will know more as time goes by. Of course I know him as a player. Sometimes people change their approach when they become a coach. He looks calm, composed and confident on what he does on and off the field.”