x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

India captain Dhoni sweats on fitness of several key men

But he hopes young players will respond well to Test challenge against West Indies.

MS Dhoni, right, is wary of the West Indies' challenge ahead of the first Test at Kingston, Jamaica, today.
MS Dhoni, right, is wary of the West Indies' challenge ahead of the first Test at Kingston, Jamaica, today.

MS Dhoni, the India captain, has concerns about the fitness of his bowlers as they prepare for today's first Test against the West Indies at Sabina Park, Kingston.

Injuries have been a problem for the tourists, with the pacemen Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth both absent with fitness concerns.

Munaf Patel has now joined that list with an elbow injury which could keep him out of the first game of the series, while the arrival of Abhimanyu Mithun, a replacement bowler, has been held up by visa problems.

Dhoni, who was rested for the one-day series, which India won 3-2, admits it is a concern.

"It is important they are fit or else it will have an impact," he said. "It's not that you are bowling four or 10 overs - you could be bowling 25 overs, whether it be a spinner or a paceman.

"You want your best bowlers to play and be at least 70-80 per cent fit for the longer format."

Murali Vijay, the opening batsman, is also struggling with a finger injury and Dhoni is aware the West Indies are not a team which will forgive weaknesses, especially on home soil.

"West Indies have a good bowling attack," he said. "But Test cricket is all about negotiating good balls and then pushing the bowlers to bowl in your areas; score enough runs for the bowlers to defend it."

With experienced players Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir not on tour, Dhoni has called on the younger squad members to step up and play to their potential.

"It's a good exposure for youngsters," he said. "Tests are a lot tougher. It's important they play Tests and gain more experience.

"It would help them take the right decisions, help them groom themselves. You want each individual to enjoy cricket and look to create an atmosphere where they are loving the challenge. If there is no challenge, you don't know their mettle." The West Indies will be looking to bounce back from their one-day series loss, although they ended it in positive fashion with back-to-back victories.

Darren Bravo is hoping to carry that form into the opening Test and make the bouncy Sabina Park pitch work in their favour.

"We know India are susceptible to the short ball and we have the likes of Kemar Roach, I believe Fidel Edwards as well, and Ravi Rampaul," Bravo said.

"Those guys are bowling pretty fast, so they can be a bit intimidating, so hopefully we can go out there and execute and play to the best of our ability.

"We will also be taking the momentum from the ODI series. They will be stronger but still I think we will have a capable team to go out there and perform well."

The West Indies have recalled Shivnarine Chanderpaul after he was left out of the one-day series, but Chris Gayle remains out of favour with the West Indies Cricket Board following their much-publicised dispute.