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Dhoni pays tribute to Fletcher

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has praised the influence of former England coach Duncan Fletcher as his side prepares for a Champions Trophy semi-final against Sri Lanka in Cardiff.

Thursday's meeting at Cardiff Wales Stadium is a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final, where India came out on top.

Fletcher replaced Gary Kirsten as India coach following the tournament, and came in for heavy criticism after a miserable tour of England that summer.

Yet the Zimbabwean, who famously guided England to a first Ashes success in 18 years in 2005, has since led India through a period of transition to a point where they are now ranked in the top three in all formats of the international game.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Dhoni was full of praise for Fletcher's role in bringing through a talented batch of young players, as his side look to add another ICC 50-over tournament to their World Cup triumph.

He said: "Duncan is someone who knows the basics of cricket really well.

"The small, very little things that he can spot right at the start is something that's very crucial for all the youngsters, and it's a key for us, also.

"Also there is the fact now he's under less pressure. When he came in we were going through a phase where some of the senior cricketers left us when we were at the top of what we could have done in cricket at that point of time.

"So he is always someone who would have felt the pressure and to maintain that kind of performance is very difficult.

"But I think he's loving the fact now that the team has started to do well and also there are lots of youngsters in the side who he needs to guide.

"So I think overall he's done really well with us, and I am just very happy for him that we are going through a phase where we are doing well for him."

As well as their World Cup final win, India enjoy a good recent one-day international record against Sri Lanka, having won seven of the 10 ODI's between the sides since that game in Mumbai.

However, Dhoni has warned those games will count for little in Cardiff, where the weather again looks likely to play a part in proceedings.

He said: "What has happened before and in the final does not really count because, even if both the teams were the same, they have been a significant amount of changes that have been made to the format, quite a few rules and regulations.

"So I don't think we can really count on all those stats. I think it's very different, and also the fact that both the teams are looking very different.

"It means both the teams are good. I think Sri Lanka have a really good squad.

"They are going through a phase where they are missing some of their players. So I think it's important for both the teams to do well, and I think they're a very good team."

Lasith Malinga's ability to swing the ball at pace will again be a key element of Sri Lanka's bowling attack, although his record against India is far from great.

Dhoni believes Malinga's presence in the Indian Premier League is significant and has allowed India's batsmen to have more confidence when facing his unique action.

He said: "We play amongst each other a lot, so we see a lot of Malinga; we understand him better; we play him in the subcontinental conditions where he gets a lot of reverse swing, where he is one of the most difficult bowlers to face.

"These small, small things make a difference.”

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