Once again harping on the “process” after India’s embarrassing 214-run loss against South Africa in the fifth and final ODI, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni insisted that issues need to be addressed soon to get the national cricket team in order.
After allowing South Africa to post 438 for four, the highest conceded ever by India in ODIs, the hosts were shot out for 224 in 36 overs and Dhoni admitted the team is in a tough spot.
“I know India is more about result, but at the same time you won’t always get the results if you are not looking into the process. It’s a tough situation,” Dhoni said in the post-match press conference on Sunday night.
“But at the same time we are looking for solution. We have to try a few other things, because if you are doing the same thing, you will get the same result,” he explained further.
Clinching the five-match rubber 3-2, Proteas registered their first-ever bilateral ODI series in India, which comes straight after their 2-0 triumph in the three T20s.
“We have to look at the larger (longer) picture. (Otherwise) may be you will win a series here and there. But to be consistent you have to have a settled team. To a lot of extent our team does not look to be that settled,” Dhoni said candidly.
The Ranchi star has been criticised for making quite a few changes in the batting order, but defended his strategy and said he had done it to find out the best solution to different situations the team would be facing.
“You have to look at the venue, what kind of wicket is provided and accordingly you have to make changes. I have made a few changes in the batting order to see what gives more strength to our batting order, what looks like a very good composition when you are chasing. All these things you have to study.”
He also declared that Stuart Binny, who figured in only one game of the 50-over rubber, remained the best seam-bowling all-rounder while left-handers Axar Patel, who played in four out of five, and the axed Ravindra Jadeja were the country’s best bets as spin bowling all rounders.
“We will keep talking we don’t have seaming all rounders. We have tried Stuart. People have criticised that also, but if you look at all-rounders in India, who is your best seaming bowling all-rounder – it’s Stuart Binny – and the two best spinning all rounders – Ravinder Jadeja and Axar Patel.
“Whether you like it or not these are our best seaming and spinning all-rounders and we have to make the best out of them,” he emphasised.
“We have been struggling with the seaming all rounder. We feel our lower order batting is slightly on the lighter side when we play against good fast bowlers. Actually it puts lot of pressure on the top six batsmen, if you lose one or two early wickets then you have only three or four batsmen to play with as you can’t rely too much on your lower order.
“We have to find ways to see the best bowling composition for us, but at the same time not at the cost of being too light when it comes to bating. We have to address these problems,” Dhoni noted.
“The good thing is we have time in our hand, but we have to find individuals who can fit into those slots and they have to start doing well. There are a few areas of concern. We have to find individuals who can handle playing pressure of international cricket. And once they are successful the job will become slightly easier,” the limited-overs skipper added.
“We have tried going for fast bowlers who can bowl quick, but realised they are giving away more runs and we are better off playing with people who are more into their line and length. Ideally Mohit should be your third seamer, but you have to mix and match as to who is your death bowler, who can bowl middle overs and who is your new ball bowler.
“We have tried a lot of different fast bowlers, who have not done really well for us. But at the same time when they go back and play Duleep Trophy or Deodhar Trophy or IPL, they are the ones who have done well.
“I think there’s a bit of difference between top first class cricket and international cricket. Overall we are off and on. We are lacking a bit of consistency when it comes to death bowling. There are days where we have done really well and there have been matches when we had given away lot of runs in the last ten.”
He also joked that the performance by the bowlers on Sunday was so pathetic that he would not count it as “bad” even.
“Today they had good partnerships and the wicket was on a flatter side. I thought may be with spinners, with that extra fielder outside, we can exploit it, but the wicket was a bit too true to stop the opposition, who were scoring at a very brisk pace. So it was a difficult one especially today. I don’t count it as a bad performance. It was so bad that I would not count it as bad.”
Asked what went wrong in the series decider, he replied “Yeh sawal aaj mat poocho match me galti kahan hui. Sade charso run ke aaspaas bane hai aur aap poochte hain galti kahan hui (Don’t ask me today what went wrong. Close to 450 runs had been scored by South Africa, and you are asking this),” to peals of laughter from the media persons.
“Kuch catches choote hain (some catches were dropped), we bowled a bit short in the beginning and gave width to the batsmen. Up to 20-25 overs we were in some control but once they accelerated 10-12-15 runs an over were scored. 438 or 440 is a very difficult target to chase.
“We have chased up to 350, but even ten runs above that and pressure builds up. I remember at Rajkot we made 413 (414) after Sri Lanka made 413 (411) and won by 1 or 2 runs) (in December, 2009), but the ground was different and the attacks were similar.
“They batted very well here. We wanted to go for it and decided to give ourselves some time to build up partnerships and the overall plan was to bat 50 overs. Sometimes it happens and at other times it does not,” he added.
He also felt that the wicket was very good for batting while agreeing to a suggestion that in India even in ODIs tracks with some turn should be prepared.
“The wicket was true and it was a very good batting wicket, no turn on offer for spinners. Our fast bowlers, yes they can swing the ball, but when it is flat they are not ones who can push the opposing batsmen on the back foot and even when they are fast they don’t have the bounce as they don’t hit the deck hard.
“Our strength is entirely different. If you look on this wicket, everyone has gone for runs, which is rare. There was not really much on offer for our spinners or fast bowlers. That was the reason once the partnerships (two century stands) happened and they looked to accelerate, it was very difficult to stop the boundaries.
“They (centurions Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and A B de Villiers) were playing the big shots. All strategies were used by us but there are days when it does not work. When the wicket is so true and if you have that kind of partnership, it is very difficult to stop the opposition.”
Asked whether slightly more turning wickets were advisable for ODIs too, he said “It should be the case, you don’t get turning tracks in Jo’burg or any other place. You have to play to your strength, but at times they (pitches) are over-rolled and you get very flat wickets. It’s something which keeps happening.
“We had played against Australia where there was very less turn for spinners and 350s were scored lot of big scores were made. Till they don’t score something like 400, it’s a chaseable score. If does not happen in one particular game you can’t really think too much about it.”
He, however, was emphatic that the results in T20 and ODI series would have no bearing on the Test matches to follow if they are played on wickets that have something to help Indian spinners, like the wicket for the fourth ODI at Chennai.
“Results of T20 and ODIs will not bother players at all, because a Test is a completely different challenge. If you get wickets like Chennai, the Test series will be very interesting, reason being it’s a long series and that’s (turning wicket) the challenge you face when it comes to
“Indian cricket is not about flat wickets. I love playing on wickets that turn I love playing on wickets where there’s some kind of challenge for batsmen to score. It will be an interesting series,” added Dhoni who has already retired from Tests.