Happy with Kohli, Yadav: Dhoni
Sydney, Feb 37: Chasing 253, India were bundled out for a paltry 165 runs in their must-win game against Australia in the CB Series. Reflecting upon the long and tough tour, skipper MS Dhoni spoke about the emergence of Virat Kohli and Umesh Yadav, the positives that India will take from the tour. With one league match left, Dhoni also discussed the slim possibility of India qualifying for the tri-series final in the post-match media interaction.
Excerpts from the press conference:
On what went wrong
I don’t think I need to explain. We have been explaining it for the past series. We have not done enough with the bat. It seemed as if they would score close to 280 runs, but we bowled really well after 34 overs. Before that too there were a few good spells, but after that it went our way. Viru pa [Virender Sehwag] bowled really well. He bowled eight overs. We were in a really difficult situation. We were not sure if Irfan [Pathan] could or could not bowl because of the injury and Umesh [Yadav] was a bit expensive so the last few overs were a bit of a worry. Praveen [Kumar] [bowled] brilliantly in [his] comeback game. I’m really happy with their performance, but when it came to our batting, it wasn’t good enough.
On whether somebody needed to give the team a dressing down
It’s not like we are not telling them [...] We need to win games. That’s what is important. In this whole series we have not done really well with the bat. We have to get the opposition out for less than 200, it seems, to win a game, which I don’t think is good enough. We have a much better batting line-up. It’s just that most of us are not in good form together, so there is more pressure on the people who are scoring runs. And also there is a lot of pressure on the No. 7, 8 and 9 [batsmen]. They are in [to bat] close to the 30th over. More often than not we are four or five wickets down by the end of the 20th over.
Some coaches and captains use dressing-downs as motivation for when other things are not working […]. We have been explaining what needs to be done. I am not a real believer in pinpointing individuals and saying, ‘You need to do this, you need to do that’. I always say it’s a team sport. We consider the first seven as the batting department, which doesn’t mean the last few can’t bat. We have addressed the problem; we need to give a bit more time to ourselves to get used to the pace and the bounce of the wicket. And after that, whoever settles in has to sweat it out. We know all of us are not in very good form. If somebody is set, he has to stay at one end, and the rest all contribute. What happened with Gautam [Gambhir is] that he got nineties in a couple of innings. That really gave us a good set-up, and those were the couple of games we did well in.
On whether he had considered shuffling the order and sending Sehwag lower down
Sachin [Tendulkar] and Sehwag are the best men to open the innings. People talk a lot about who is best suited to that particular position. Gautam has got a plenty of experience batting at No. 3, so ideally that’s how they are supposed to bat.
On whether India had shown enough faith in their reserve batsmen
We have shown enough faith. We tried to give a chance to Rohit [Sharma]. He played in the first five games. It is a bit difficult. We would have liked to give Manoj [Tiwary] also a chance. [But] again what happens is that you give chances and people ask whether it is experimentation. It is not experimentation. This being a long tournament, in the initial half we wanted to give a chance to Rohit. He has got a lot of talent and we were in a position where we could have done that but once you come into a do or die situation, the best XI plays and this is what happened in the series.
On the option of playing a specialist batsman in place of Ravindra Jadeja
But our problem is also, who will bowl? Viru pa did well in this game, but you can’t always depend on the part-timers. But if they don’t bowl well, for example, what happened to us in England [will recur]. You will always be chasing maybe 20 more runs than what can usually be scored. Which means [you’re] already minus 20 [runs] to start off with and the [extra batsman] has to score those 20 runs. So it’s a mix and match. It is a difficult one but it can be done. I always feel if you are trying to give a batsman a chance, he should be given four or five games and then if he needs to be rotated, we will have to because then [the scoring] gets forced on everybody else.
On whether hopes of making it to the finals were realistic
When it comes to a chance of getting into the finals, it is a very tough one because the margin of defeat for us has been really big and there will be a mathematical calculation [involved].
(The rule is explained to him) I am quite happy to hear that. It gives us another chance. Having said that, that would be very optimistic considering we have not done well consistently with the bat. It means whatever the opposition scores, we will have to score [those runs] in 40 overs which will be a very difficult task. But I am happy that at least there is a chance, subject to some other game. But I would love [for it to happen].
On whether the hope was realistic
It is realistic because at times we have seen when the team goes through a bad patch and all of a sudden you get a game where you have nothing to lose, you can just come in and look to express yourselves. You want to play those big strokes and even if you get out, it is fair enough [in that situation]. What we have seen in the past is that the batsmen start connecting [with the ball] more than missing [it]. Hopefully we will have the perfect XI with everybody available for selection. We’ll feature the best XI so we can win that game and leave [it] to the other game [to decide whether we’re in the finals].
On how he rates this series as captain of the side
It has been a real difficult series, especially the Test series. We were not competitive enough, like in England, [but there] we had a lot of injuries, which really bothered us. But over here [in Australia] we had a stable dressing room. We didn’t have too many injuries. Most of the players were fit and available for selection so I think it is a bit more disappointing series compared to the one in England. But there are a few positives like getting Virat Kohli amongst the runs – that is something really good. Finding Umesh Yadav [is another one], [though the] ODIs have been tough for him. He is someone who can bowl quick [and] learn more and more. He has a history of getting injured. He was very injury-prone but he has played most of the series [here] without getting injured. That is a big positive for us.
On his own batting
Well it was not really going to the end, but because by that time we had lost too many wickets, it’s a Catch-22 [situation] – you want to play a big shot because the field is up and they are looking to cramp you but also you want to stay and you want to keep the fight going because the same situation can happen in some other game. It may not be the next game but [may happen in the] future where you may be batting first and you have to look to get maybe 200-230-odd runs. When you are batting first, the opposition still needs to score the amount of runs that you have put on the board. But once you are chasing, the run rate keeps on mounting and it was a difficult task. But if you see where we ended the game, there were still seven or eight overs [left]. I don’t know how many, and the asking rate was still good which meant if we would have played 50 overs, it would have been really interesting.
On grooming youngsters by getting them to play more matches
It would be good if they do but where is the time for them to come and play? We have been complaining about too much cricket and even then whatever off period they have in between [series], there is some other tournament going on in India. [...] Maybe in the emerging tours which have already been put into place; there are quite a few emerging tours […] That will really help. A new generation of cricketers has come over here. The senior players that we have got have toured the same place more than twice. It takes time for the youngsters to groom themselves. As I said, there have been a few positives there but again if there are more emerging tours, then if the people here have learnt the right lessons, maybe the next time we come here they will be better prepared for it and hopefully do better.
On what he can do about the issue of too much cricket being played as captain of India
We sit and discuss it with the BCCI. I can’t do anything because there is a committee that decides where we are going and where we are playing. As I said, the Board has given the opportunity to the players saying, ‘ Ok. If you think you need rest, we are more than happy to give you rest irrespective of whether it is a very important tournament’. At the end of the day you don’t want people to get injured and hopefully that’s the way [...]
On players fearing loss of contracts on account of taking a break
That’s a gamble that you have to take in life. […]. But the simple thing is if you get out because of injury, you [need to take] six months, or three or four months, off. But if you opt out at the right time, you have better chances of coming back fully fit and strong. […]
On Virender Sehwag
It has been tough for him. He is someone who plays flamboyant cricket. Whenever he gets out you can point a finger saying, ‘Maybe this is not the right way.’ But that is how he plays his cricket and that is how he has got 8000 runs and close to 6000-7000 runs in Test cricket. So we need to back him. Hopefully he will come back strong. We know we may not win quite a few games, but the games that he gets in, he will be someone who can just take the attack to the opposition and score lots of runs for us. You need to have that kind of opener in your batting line so that you can put pressure on the opposition bowling. Every international side has got an opener like that who can put pressure and at the same time [might] get out also.
On his reasons behind leading Team India
Not for the sake of it. It’s an interesting responsibility that has been given to me and I am trying to fulfill it to the full potential that we have got. There will be tough tours, you can’t go just one way. We have seen that teams go through a purple patch where they are doing really well and they slump down and again come to a level where they improve. It’s a passing phase and hopefully we are also going through that. You can’t be really consistent like Manchester United, but hopefully we will be. With the youngsters coming in and playing more games
On what excites him about captaincy
The challenge to be with the senior guys, to groom the youngsters [and] to keep the dressing-room atmosphere good. We try to [provide] the youngsters conditions where they feel really comfortable [and] not really feel the pressure of [the presence of] really senior players in the dressing room. Everybody is equal and that is an ideal scenario where you can come in and perform from the very first game on a consistent level. So there is a lot to learn for the youngsters and the same way the seniors, including me, have a lot to give back to them. The experience really counts so hopefully we are going in the right direction.