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Dhoni blames himself for Canberra debacle

India captain says he should have taken the responsibility to finish the game

When India were 277 for the loss of just one wicket in the 38th over, it all looked as if India would chase down the target with absolute ease. Centurions Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli were going strong but it required just one breakthrough to change the course of the game and handover a win on Australia’s platter. Dhawan was the first to depart and then it was India captain MS Dhoni who walked in at number four who was out for a duck. Kohli did try to steady the chase but he too followed Dhoni a run later. After that it was hara-kiri and India were bundled out for 323 falling short of the target by 26 runs. Dhoni took the onus of the loss upon himself and said he should have ideally finished the game for his side. “I think it was my wicket where it all went wrong,” he said. “If you see specifically, that’s what my role is in the team – to make sure we finish off the game well from that kind of position. So I would say my wicket really was the turning point. At that point of time, we lost quite a few wickets, but I think it was my wicket that made the difference. After we lost those two-three wickets, the game completely turned, but we should have won today's game.”

When asked if he was disappointed with the shot making from his young middle-order, Dhoni defended his young crop and said, “What you have to realise is, that’s what pressure does to you. A few of them haven’t played a lot of international cricket. At times it seems when you are batting in the middle that playing the big shot is the right thing to do, but slowly, with more games under your belt, you realise that is the time you have to carry on and build some kind of partnership.

“Once you get used to the pace and bounce of the wicket, then you can play the big shot. Hopefully, they will learn from this. As I said it’s the first few games that some of them are playing and maybe it’s the first time in their careers that they were under some kind of pressure. Hopefully they are learning.”

Elaborating further on the need to groom young talent, he said, “Everyone's talent is different. You have to groom players. I have said this before; we are very used to getting complete cricketers. We don't want to groom anyone. We go by the logic - 'If this guy's not good, let's get rid of him and if that guy is not good, get rid of him too.' When these players go out and return to the team, the pressure on them will be greater. It's not easy for you to go in, you need 40 runs, and you swing your bat and hit fours and sixes. Whenever you play a big shot there's a chance that you may get out. You have to take that into account.”

With a loss at Canberra, India are now 0-4 down in the series. There have been instances in the series wherein India have managed to lose out on the game despite being in a position of winning. The 3rd ODI at the MCG looked well in India’s control but they failed to capitalise on crucial moments. Such was the case in the 4th ODI too but Dhoni said it was important to put the losses behind and move forward looking at the positives. “We batted really well tonight. It also gave a glimpse of what you may see in the T20Is, a lot of flamboyant cricket. At the same time you may say, yes we lost, are we disappointed? We are definitely disappointed, but still, you want to take the positives. And the positive is that if we could have batted better than we did after I lost my wicket, this game could have gotten over in 46th or 47th over. You look at it that way. You don't want to sink into something negative. You always want to get a lot of positives. And I feel there were lot of positives in today's game, especially in the batting department. Rohit Sharma’s knock that gave a push to the innings at the beginning and the next partnership between Virat and Shikhar was outstanding. It gave a lot of glimpse as to what may happen in the coming T20Is.”

Anand Subramaniam

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We’re covered in all departments: Rahul Dravid

India U-19 coach pleased with the talent of young wards off for the World Cup

His official designation states that Rahul Dravid is the coach of the India U-19 team. But it would be grossly unfair to limit the former India captain’s role merely as a coach of the young brigade. To a pool of talented youngsters, Dravid is also their mentor, friend and an elder brother. He is someone who has charted a career roadmap for them, the first step of which is the upcoming ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh from January 27.

The India legend does not want to burden the boys with the sole goal of winning the trophy, but to use the tournament to get closer to the bigger goal of breaking into the senior team in the future. “My message to them is to focus on actually improving and getting better, to grow as a cricketer and see this World Cup as an exposure they are getting at a very young age,” said Dravid at the pre-departure conference in Mumbai.

Dravid, who stressed on the importance of performing in the domestic cricket and earning recognition of the selectors, added that trimming India’s squad to 15 from a pool of 30 players was a challenge. “The biggest challenge for me was to select the best 15 players out of 30 because of the amount of incredible talent we have. We rotated the squad a lot for the last few months and gave opportunities to different players.”

India, who have won the tournament on three occasions, in 2000, 2008 and 2012, are placed in Group D with Ireland, New Zealand and Nepal. Dravid said he was not too focused on the opponents. “At the U-19 level, you don't have a lot of knowledge about other teams. I am not focused on who we are going to play against. We have a lot of talent in the group. We are covered in all the departments. We have very good spinners, all-rounders and we bat up to No. 8. It is now about executing our skills and performing under pressure. If they play up to their potential that I have seen in the last two months then we need not worry too much.”

The Indian team will be led by Jharkhand’s wicket-keeper batsman, Ishan Kishan. Incidentally Dravid, who played three World Cups for India, kept wickets in South Africa during the 2003 World Cup. He, however, made it clear that Delhi’s Rishab Pant would keep wickets in Bangladesh. “Both Ishan and Rishabh get into our XI and keep wickets. They are both left-handers and are good friends as well, and are similar in some ways. Rishabh will keep wickets. Ishan is a brilliant fielder so he can also focus on his leadership.”

Ishan, who has played seven List A games and 10 first-class games, said spending time with India captain MS Dhoni during Jharkhand’s Vijay Hazare Trophy match was memorable. “Dhoni was telling me what to do in pressure situations, what to do when you need wickets. It was very good talking to him,”he said.

The 17-year-old said the boys enjoy working with Rahul Dravid and other support staff members comprising Paras Mhambrey (fast bowling coach) and Abhay Sharma (fielding coach).“He is fun loving. It did not take much time for us to gel with him. His words have a lot of value. We would try and execute whatever advice he would give us in the matches that we played,” Kishan said of Dravid.

The India U-19s played practice matches against Board President XI at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai before leaving. Dravid said his advice to the boys was to keep rotating the strike. “I have stressed a lot on rotating the strike, which pulls the pressure down from one individual. We had played on very good wickets over the last couple of months. But you may not get 300-plus wickets in Bangladesh. There will be 240-250-plus wickets. They have learnt to rotate the strike, but they can always get better and improve,“ he observed.

Dravid added that the present generation was blessed with the ability to clear the fence. “The biggest advantage is that all of them can play big shots and the distance they cover is incredible. They are in a generation where they are practising playing the big shots and some of the sixes they hit boggle the mind.”

Moulin Parikh

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