India had just lost their first World Cup match to South Africa by three wickets and Dhoni criticised his batsmen who had made it happen. The team would have been helped greatly had they curbed, not their enthusiasm, but certainly their instincts on Saturday.
India lost nine wickets for 29 to be bowled out for 296, when they were on course for something far bigger. The batsmen “don’t need to play for the spectators – they love sixes and fours in India but at the end of the day….,” Dhoni said. He spoke calmly, his agitation emerging mostly from his words.
The team, Dhoni said, always talked about a par score on every ground on which it played an ODI and responding to changing on-field situations. India were never able to do that in Nagpur, losing four for 30 in the batting Powerplay. “When you have 270 -280 on board, you go out there and what you want to do is play big shots and crowds always want those big shots. But different people have different roles and responsibilities. You need to bat 50 overs at least. Especially if you’ve lost two-three wickets in the first 35 overs, you should be able to bat 50 overs.” He then added one of the more obvious truths in the game that had escaped the batsmen, “If you play 50 overs,” Dhoni said several times in his short 10-minute conference, “you get more runs.”
The first two partnerships added 267, and it was the breadth of the platform that got the rest of the Indian batsmen going, given the fact that the team knew that 320 was thought of as a par score in Nagpur. “If you want a par score, you then start looking at 350 or 360 and you end up with 40 runs less.”
Dhoni also said the Indians had struggled to defend their total of 296 because of the size of the VCA stadium affecting the Indians, and the differing standards of fielding between the sides. “I think with one of the biggest grounds in India here, we were tested by South Africa’s fast running between the wickets. Most of the fielders got targeted and it won’t be the case in some of the grounds which are not very big enough.
“Fielding was also the difference between the two sides. They fielded brilliantly even though we got off to a good start and had dominated our innings until the 35th or 38th over. But maybe the 15 runs they saved gave them a massive advantage.”
Dhoni said he had called for the batting Powerplay (when India began to lose wickets) in order to try and use the last ten overs of the innings. “We wanted to use the batting Powerplay as well as the slog overs after that. If you can do that you carry momentum from the five overs, and sometimes you can score 100 runs in those ten overs.”
The result, he said, was more than a disappointment. “It’s a big learning curve,” Dhoni said. “If you see the England v South Africa match, it just reminds you, that a game doesn’t get over, till its over.”