Learning curve for youngsters: Dhoni
Hambantota, July 24: The Indian team, high on the win of the ODI series opener against Sri Lanka, were brought back to earth with a crushing defeat in the second match. The series now stands 1-1 as India look to bounce back against the upbeat hosts in the third ODI, at Colombo.
In his post-match interaction with the media, India captain MS Dhoni spoke about his team’s contrasting performances in the two games at the same venue and his team composition.
Excerpts from the press conference:
On what he would attribute the collapse to
Initially the wicket was slightly on the slower side. Once Virat [Kohli] got out, we lost a couple more wickets very quickly. Before the batsmen could assess the wicket, we lost two wickets played-on. I thought after that it was too much for batsmen like Irfan [Pathan] and [Ravichandran] Ashwin to come in [to bat] and take us out of trouble.
On India having made low totals in Dambulla previously and whether the conditions there were similar to those at Hambantota
I don’t think it was very similar. In Dambulla what usually happens is, if it is a day-night game, the second half becomes very difficult. The last time we played [the wicket] was a bit spongy. Before that usually it used to keep a bit low but still [the ball] used to move around a lot. Over here the wicket was slightly different. [The ball] was stopping before coming on and I don’t think there was too much swing for the bowlers. There was a bit of a breeze, which meant you could swing it a bit, but nothing unusual. I just thought that the pace of the wicket was [such that it was] not really coming on to the bat and that’s the reason we lost too many wickets initially.
On whether the loss of wickets could be attributed more to bad shot selection rather than good bowling
I don’t think that they were shots that were really rash; people were looking for singles. If you see Rohit’s [Sharma] [wicket] ball, the shot was on in the sense that if the ball is there, you have to play your shots and only then you can get runs. But he got an inside edge and it went on to the stumps. It could have been his lucky day if it hadn’t hit the stumps and he was still there to carry on with his innings. It is part and parcel of the game and a big learning curve. I hope the batsmen learn and assess the wicket very quickly.
On whether the current team composition was the way forward
It is a difficult one [to answer] because when we play with four bowlers and part-timers, the question is asked whether we need that extra batsman. [...] When we play with four bowlers and few part-timers, we have variety. If Yuvraj [Singh] is playing, we have one left-arm spinner and a few off-spinners. If [Ravindra] Jadeja is playing, it is the same. But if we decide to go with one more batsman over here, what may happen is all our spinners can be off-spinners and what we have seen, especially on this kind of wicket, is that there was not too much of turn for the spinners. So we may find it difficult to use all the bowlers and have to finish those ten overs [using the part-timers] in those middle overs and not stretch them beyond the 40th over. You have to finish those overs early, which means that a few overs of the specialist spinners have to be used after the 40th over, maybe into the slog overs.
On the bowling and fielding not being up to the mark in the second consecutive match
Our bowling was not up to the mark in this game. Fielding, yes we need to improve. But with regard to the bowling, if you make 138-odd runs, the opposition plays freely. They don’t have to score too many runs so it becomes a very different game. [...]
On whether the captain can call someone up into the playing squad to replace under-performing players
That’s a difficult choice that you have to make as a captain. It is something that you have to decide. You always back youngsters but what is important is, in the process you do not come in the way of somebody else who is sitting on the bench. It is something that we need to decide, making a conscious attempt. [You need to be] honest to yourself and not commit any harm to any of the players. Let’s wait and see. I know which players you mean but you have to [wait and] see. What I personally believe in is to give a batsman or a bowler a few games before we change him because it gives him an opportunity to prove himself. In the same way, if he is not performing and the new guy comes in, you give him a stretch of games so that he is confident that he won’t be shuffled if he doesn’t perform in [a] particular game, that he won’t be chucked out and somebody else brought in. I feel that’s a good way to go ahead because it gives you a cushion for the next three or four games. [You know] you are the person who would be playing. And you will be getting an extra two games if the team is doing well – those extra two games provided by the team.
On whether complacency, over confidence or lack of application caused the loss
I don’t think it is any one of the three. It is difficult to pick a reason. [...] It is difficult to ascertain the category [that the loss falls under] but as I said, it is a good [lesson] for the youngsters. You may play in different conditions, different scenarios. The square [we played on today] was next to the wicket that we played on the last time but it behaved in a completely different way. It is a good learning curve and slowly and gradually you will see all the youngsters learning, especially the importance of the middle overs. That is where most of the cricket is played, right from the 15th-20th over till the 40th over.
On the role of the windy conditions in the outcome
The boys adjusted well to the conditions whether it was the bowling or the batting department. Today the performance wasn’t so good but still, the kind of wind we faced here was the kind that one usually gets to see in Wellington in New Zealand. I think given the amount of time, we had adjusted pretty well. One performance was good, the other wasn’t so much up to the mark. So I am quite happy; [it was a] decent performance.