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Dhoni doffs his hat to bowlers

Indian skipper praises his bowlers’ performance as ‘one of the best I’ve seen’

India fell short by 40 runs in the Auckland Test but the defeat was not for the lack of fight. After having conceded a 300-plus run lead in the first innings, the visitors bounced back in the game, thanks to an inspired performance by the pace attack, who dismissed New Zealand for 105 in the second essay. Skipper, MS Dhoni was pleased with his bowlers’ effort despite the loss.

“The bowlers bowled fantastically well to get us back. This was among the best that I have seen our bowlers bowl, especially on a good wicket,” Dhoni said. “They kept it tight and bowled wicket—taking deliveries at the same time. They need to continue doing that. When you go and not look at what you want to achieve at the end, you can slowly graduate into bigger goals.”

India were dismissed for 366 in their second, chasing 407. Dhoni blamed the batting performance in the first innings (India were all-out for 202) for letting the game slip.

“I don’t think we batted really well in the first innings,” he said. In the second innings, quiet a few of our batmen batted really well. We had few unlucky wickets. Ajinkya’s decision was a tough one at a very crucial time.”

While Dhoni was left to rue the one that got away, his Kiwi counterpart was an extremely satisfied man. Brendon McCullum led from the front with a sparkling double century in the first innings to script his team’s victory.

“One of my best innings in an New Zealand shirt,” McCullum beamed. “ I am delighted to make a significant contribution. A lot of credit must go to those who formed partnerships with me. A Test victory over this Indian team is no small achievement.”

He was glad that in the end, his bowlers kept their nerves as India threatened to sneak in with a win. “Definitely, there were nervous times. They put us under immense amount of pressure. Neil Wagner’s spell epitomised everything that is going well with the side. It was a great Test to be part of. One that we will remember. We had to overcome tough periods when batting,” said McCullum, who was awarded the Man of the Match for his brilliant 224 in the first innings.

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India keen to retain U19 World Cup trophy

Team to concentrate on their strengths and the raise the bar for the tournament

Defending champions India are set to begin their campaign to retain the ICC Under-19 World Cup Trophy under the leadership of Vijay Zol. The India captain was also a part of the team that won the previous edition in 2012 and says that the experience will help as they start the journey again.

The Zol-led team has had a good run-up to the coveted tournament and prepared to take on the challenge.

Ahead of the tournament, captain Zol and coach B Arun addressed the media in India and spoke about the team’s preparation and composition.

Excerpts from the press conference:

Taking on Pakistan

B Arun: We are always going to respect the opposition first. The fact that we have played Pakistan earlier this year in the Asia cup (helps) – the first match was very close and we won the final convincingly. So, we draw a lot of confidence from that game, and the approach will be like any other game.

Zol: It’s a different ball game whenever you play Pakistan. They are in good position as an Under-19 team. They have played well together as a unit. But, as a team, we will look at them as just another game. We will concentrate on the processes, and not the results.

Assessment of the squad

B Arun: The performance of the squad in the last one year says a lot. We played major One-Day International tournaments and we won all the tournaments convincingly. Obviously, there is always room for us to improve, and that’s exactly what we are working on. We have done very well, but in a World Cup, you need to raise the bar. There is always scope for improvement.

Can you describe where that scope is for improvement?

B Arun: Everywhere. We made a few mistakes during those tournaments, and the challenge now is to not make those mistakes again. We have probably been one of the best fielding teams in the world, and we want to be No. 1 in fielding. That is something we really need to work hard on, to raise the bar.

Pitches are different in Australia and UAE. How have you prepared?

Zol: There was extra bounce in Australian pitches. We adapted really well and won 5-0 and it was a great experience for us. Comparatively, in Dubai and Sharjah, the pitches didn’t have much help for pace bowlers and spinners. They wickets there were batsmen-friendly. So, it was like a batting paradise. For the batsmen, it wasn’t much of a worry, and as a bowling unit, we did really well over there. As a fielding unit, we have been superb. Slight adjustments here and there, and we were alright over there.

You (Zol) were part of the previous team as well. How different has the preparation been?

Zol: Not much of a difference. Even then, we had a good camp and we have almost followed the same routine. Winning the previous World Cup was a great memory for us, it was a great experience. This team is no less than that. We have done really well in the past four tournaments, and we are looking forward to the World Cup now.

How different is this team from the previous won?

B Arun: I think it’s unfair to compare the two teams. That team was good, and so is this one. I guess being part of the previous World Cup was a pretty good experience. We were a little more nervous then, we didn’t know the ways of how to get over this nervousness like now. So that’s going to really help us.

Team has been together for a long time. Is that your biggest plus?

B Arun: We have been together for over a year. I guess, you begin to understand that more than the sport, you need to understand each other. They see the other side of a player, and more than anything else, we have always had the policy of never looking at the outcome. We are going to enjoy playing together, enjoying being together and enjoy doing things together and I guess we are going to carry the same thing on the field. That is the focus of the entire camp.

On the camp ahead of the tournament

B Arun: There’s definitely going to be pressure, heading into a major tournament like this. The challenge is to conquer the pressure that you’re going to face. We set the processes in the boot camp for the clarity of role –each one has to understand his role in the team – and we have set the process to achieve those roles. More focus on the process would take you away from the pressure. That’s what we concentrated on.

Activities you did in the camp?

B Arun: We did a lot of team building activities. The boys went on their own, together, to formulate the most important aspects you need to do well in the World Cup. We had rappelling and trust walk and things like that, which you help you in a non-cricket environment where you need to focus more on the process and trust the leader. And that helps you go with the activity pretty smoothly, and relating that to cricket again, it comes down to process.

Ranji final didn’t go well for you (Zol). So how big a challenge is this World Cup?

Zol: For me, playing the Ranji final itself was a great experience. I learnt a lot of things in the first-class season this year. I was disappointed I couldn’t contribute to the team when it counted. But I learnt a few things, which I would like to implement in the World Cup now. Probably, winning the World Cup would make me happier and it would compensate for not contributing in the Ranji final.