As India gear up for the first Test at the Wanderers here starting Wednesday, it will be the first instance that the team will be without any of the four batting stalwarts.
This is the first time since November 1996 that none of the four batting stalwarts, Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, who defined Indian batting in the last two decades, will be there.
"With the last Test match we played in India, it is 100 percent sure that Sachin won't be available for any more international series. It was always good to have him, but now that he won't be there, we have to concentrate on what he have in our hands. We have accepted that fact and moved on," Dhoni said here at the Wanderers.
India have suffered a horrid time overseas in Tests ever since winning the World Cup in 2011. They lost eight consecutive Tests in England and Australia but at home won six back to-back Test matches.
"Every series is a fresh start. There is no point bringing excess baggage. It is about getting used to conditions and offering what the team has. There are plenty of youngsters in this side, who will get exposure by playing competitive cricket at the Test level. So it's a big positive for us," Dhoni said.
India have been humiliated in the three-match ODI series that South Africa won 2-0. The two-day tour match was also washed out, leaving India with little time to prepare for the Tests.
"At Benoni, we could have batted on the first day and made the opposition field on a wet outfield. But that would have been selfish of us because they also have a first class season going on. Nobody wanted to get injured so it was good for both teams that the match was abandoned. We did practice on the centre wicket and got the most out of it," said Dhoni.
About the disastrous ODI series, Dhoni cited the short duration being one of the factors for India not being able to make a comeback.
"In the ODI series too, we were confident but in a couple games, we played lots of shots and we found the fielders more often than not. It was disappointing but when it's a short series, you don't get time to come back.
"But we learnt plenty from that series, what lengths to bowl and as batsmen what to leave. So overall, our preparation has been good and it is all about how individuals adapt to different scenarios now," he added.
Dhoni said the main thing will be to bowl well.
"The wicket here will certainly assist the fast bowlers initially. The ideal length anywhere is to bowl at the top of off-stump and the bowlers have picked it up now they have played a few ODIs here. So it will be very crucial to bowl well, especially with the new ball because early wickets can put pressure on the middle order," he said.
Dhoni also refused to reveal the playing XI but hinted that Zaheer Khan may play his first international match in 12 months.
"This middle order has done well in the domestic circuit back home and also in whatever international exposure they have got. It is a fresh challenge for them and they will gain immense experience about how to play Test cricket outside India," he said.
--IANS (Posted on 17-12-2013)