Need everyone in top form: Dhoni
Adelaide, Feb 15: With 10 points from four games in the CB Series, table-toppers India have done well to break out of the Test slump. The closely fought fifth match of the tri-series between India and Sri Lanka underscored the highly competitive nature of the tournament. India skipper MS Dhoni touched on a variety of issues from the five-ball over to the team’s rotation policy during his post-match media interaction.
On the last two matches
Both were difficult games. The Adelaide wicket is closer to the sub-continental wickets. The bowlers get a little bit of reverse swing going and it stops and comes on to the bat. It’s not really easy to chase unless the wicket remains good throughout. I felt today in the first half the wicket played much better, in the second half it got slower and slower. It wasn’t really coming on to the bat. They had an interesting field; they had catching fielders throughout and once you are chasing you have to play percentage cricket. You have to be careful–if you go down the order, the middle-order starts to come in, you can’t really afford to play big shots and that’s how we play our cricket. We got stuck a bit in the middle, but Gautam [Gambhir] and I got going really well. It was a nice set-up for a chase. Then I gave a wrong call to Gautam and he got out [and] that really affected the result. We saw quite a few ups and downs. Overall, I’m quite happy with the two points that both the sides have got because they could have lost this game, we could have lost this game. […]
On the difficulty chasing a modest score like 236
It is a difficult one. The wicket doesn’t guarantee you a score saying, ‘If you don’t lose a wicket, you will get more than 250-odd runs’. Especially when you are chasing, you chase according to the number of runs that are on the scorecard. You don’t look to score 250-odd runs if 236 is the target so what you look to do is to get it in the 48th or 49th over with one over to spare. Once the wicket gets slower and lower, the ball doesn’t come on to the bat. It becomes difficult to rotate [the strike] consistently. You have to play big shots but with big shots there is the risk of the batsman getting out. It’s a mix and match. You have to be at you best and I think in this game we were set up really nicely. Once Gautam and I started batting, we had a nice set-up to win this game but unfortunately Gautam got out and it was difficult for the lower-order to come in and straightaway rotate the strike.
On batsmen other than him being unable to finish games off
No, not really. [Suresh] Raina has done well finishing off games and to be consistent you need to play more and more games. The only batsman who was consistent batting down the order [was] Yuvraj Singh. Once he came into the side he was the only one successful batting at No. 6. Of course he now bats at No. 4, but it is a very difficult position to bat at and Raina has done decently well. You won’t always get a chance to score big runs but that’s a position where if needed you have to chip in with a 25-ball, 35-ball 40. Normally you would look to get the game closer and with one of the other batsmen who are set [from] the top three or four, you will look to win the game.
On his preference to stay on and let the others hit big initially
Why mend something that’s not broken? Why do you want us to lose the game? This is working for us and hopefully from the other side also we will start getting batsmen who can look to play the big shots once there is an equal amount of pressure on the bowler.
On his mindset while facing the last ball
Basically, it is blank. As for the area where I am looking to play a shot, with [Lasith] Malinga it’s a very difficult action to pick. He is someone who is really consistent with line. He bowls yorkers at will and now you have variation; they bowl yorkers at your toe, stumps and then outside off [-stump] also. If you get set for a ball that is supposed to be right on the stump and he bowls a yorker outside off, it is a very difficult ball to hit. That’s a ball that most of the lower-order batsmen who slog really well find it difficult to hit consistently. So you’re looking to be blank and you back yourself. If you are not backing yourself to get those four runs, it will be tougher. [At] Adelaide it is difficult to get a nick; it goes between the keeper and third-man and the outfield is difficult, so you have to back yourself.
On picking areas to hit shots
You don’t get that much time, that’s something I always say. People always say, ‘See the short ball, come into the line, open your body and play it towards square-leg’. I’ve never got so much time irrespective of whether it is Shoaib Akhtar bowling [or] Gautam Gambhir bowling medium-pace at me. I always find it difficult. You see the ball, hit it, look to get the runs and you are happy.
On the five-ball over
Duncan [Fletcher] told me about it. There was a five-ball over in the past too. [In such a case] the third umpire interferes [and] you have to come back and bowl that ball; that’s what has happened to us [in the past]. It didn’t happen in this game–fair enough. Nothing much can be done now.
On the turning point of the match
We didn’t lose the game. Gautam’s run-out, as I said, was a wrong call and from that point it was very difficult for him to come back [to his crease] and I think that really changed [the game]. Gautam was really set and he was using the pace of the bowlers. At the same time, he is someone who can chip in [with runs] in the middle and we run really well. The set-up was really nice close to the 40th over. Gautam and I batting, with [Ravindra] Jadeja and [R] Ashwin to come in after that, and Irfan [Pathan] also–it was a nice set-up. But I thought [after] Gautam got out we were slightly on the back-foot because [it was] difficult for the fresh batsmen to come in and rotate [the strike] consistently.
On his advice to Ravichandran Ashwin when he came out to bat
I just told him play average cricket since more often than not [Lasith] Malinga bowls two deliveries [in particular] to tail-enders. They know it’s difficult for the lower-order batsmen to pick him consistently; look for the yorker or the slower one. He is very good at disguising it; he bowls it really well I said, ‘Just wait for the ball, look for the ball’. If you see the yorker, you automatically react. You don’t really plan for the yorker; either you’re saved or you get out so I just wanted him to do that. But he got deceived by the slower one and got out. Fair enough.
On whether there was a routine while batting in crisis situations
There is no routine. The more you play in these circumstances, the better you get. That’s one of the reasons why when someone is batting at [No.] 6 or 7, it’s important that they consistently bat at that number. While you are chasing, they will come in to bat and there will be pressure on them. And if we are batting first, they will get to play the last five to ten overs. If there is a different scenario, it means in 20 overs you are 40/50/60 for five–they will always bat under pressure.
On being on a high after such a game
Seeing the dressing room happy is what really gives me a nice feeling. All said and done, when you are winning games you are slightly happier. You can say we played well, the opposition outplayed you but at the end of the day you feel bad if you have not won a game; it’s important to win games. I always say it’s not the only thing that matters but it does affect you a bit so winning games is crucial.
On whether the five-ball over could have changed the result
I don’t know because a dot ball could have happened. It [often] happens in cricket so maybe it would have been a dot.
On Gautam Gambhir’s innings
He is a batsman who, once he gets going, comes in with a big score and he looks to play more than 35 to 40 overs which allows the other batsmen to come in and play a bit freely. The difficulty is we have been chasing so you can’t always express yourself. It’s good to have someone like Gautam in the side. He plays the spinners really well and he runs between the wickets well so it gives the team a chance to come back just in case a couple of batsmen make mistakes in the middle of the innings.
On whether experienced players find it tough being rested
If they are finding it difficult, there’s no good reason why a youngster who has played 30 or 35 games will find it easier to do that. We also want all the players to be fit by the time we go into the finals; all of them should be scoring runs by that time. It’s good exposure. Rohit [Sharma] is a very talented guy. Manoj Tiwary, on the bench, has scored in the last series that he has played. We are giving ample chances to them because these are players who for sure will come back to Australia once we play the next World Cup. There is no surety for some of us who are playing. Sachin [Tendulkar] or Viru [Virender Sehwag] or even Gautam–all of us are 30-plus and it’s big outfields out here. It’s giving them fair exposure as to how difficult, easy or different it is to play and where you need to change your game a bit.
On the rotation policy
What’s important is to get everybody going. What may also happen is the guy who is playing all the games may get injured by the finals and you will find someone coming in his place who has not played many games and not scored runs. It’s a long tournament, the tri-series. It’s four games each before the finals; it’s the equivalent of two series. The first series that I played was three games against Bangladesh, so it’s the equivalent of three series and then the finals. It’s a very long tournament and demanding tournament in the sense the outfields are very big, the batsmen put pressure on you, you can get injured at anytime you are looking to save that one run or are in a bad position to throw. We want all the guys to be fit, and at the same time the youngsters to get exposure, by the start of the finals–if we reach the finals.
On the transition from Tests
I have been concentrating on the ODIs right now. We have not really discussed anything after the Test series. It was important that the new guys coming in didn’t really feel [that] the dressing room was silent. We were concentrating more on how to get a good dressing-room atmosphere going, so we’re quite busy with that. Changes are bound to happen. I’m here [now] but I won’t be there [later]; it happens to everyone. All cricketers are not Sachin [that] they can play for 20-22 years. And with the amount of cricket now, I don’t think you will see players playing that long with all kinds of formats coming in. With even a single shot that goes to square leg, the batsman is always looking for two so you are putting a burden on yourself. If you are slightly slow in the field, it shows; the opposition will look to exploit it.
On departing bowling coach Eric Simons
Eric has been brilliant; he has been with us for quite some time. He knows our culture, how we work, and he understands each and every bowler. What’s also important is [to know the difference between] what we speak and what we mean. Sometimes the bowlers say something but they mean something else; that [understanding] only comes in once the bowling coach has spent some time with the youngsters or the bowlers who are set in the side. We’ve had a good experience with him and hopefully the new bowling coach does well.
We have seen people happy with DRS in a series where it goes in their favour. But when it doesn’t go in their favour, they are quite unhappy about it. I am quite happy with three [or four] individuals; two umpires in the middle, the match referee and the scorer.
On Gambhir’s statement about the need to finish the Australia game early
It’s different when you are playing in the middle. If you see his innings today, he also found it difficult to rotate the strike consistently and at that point of time it is very difficult to play a big shot [...] You can easily play big shots but the difference is, it always has to pay off. If it doesn’t pay off, what do you say? You may have said the same thing about some of the youngsters, that the shot was not needed. I am never in a hurry to finish it in the 48th over or the 47th over. Even if it goes to the 49th or 50th over, I am quite happy. I don’t have the luxury of batsmen behind me. If I go in, I would like to finish the job. Some people like to finish the game early, take a bit more risks in the middle, and finish off the game. But I have a different perspective about it and it’s a very individual thing. If you ask Viru pa, he would have said, ‘Why not in 25 overs?’ Every individual is different. We play differently and you need to take the views of everyone [into account]. Hopefully it will work for us and in the next game, we’ll score it well before the 49th over.