'India losing a bigger headline than India winning'
MS Dhoni has said it was very important for India to not trip up in the final of the Asia Cup to hold the critics at bay, and to keep the team's momentum intact leading up to the World T20. The unit is a balanced one ahead of the showpiece event, he said, with the only question mark hanging over seamer Ashish Nehra who might have to make way for Mohammed Shami.
"India losing a final is a bigger headline than India winning a final," Dhoni said after sealing an eight-wicket win over Bangladesh in Mirpur with a six over midwicket. "It's like putting in a lot at stake: if you win then they say 'nothing really'; if you lose to Bangladesh, say people 'oh, you lost to Bangladesh?'
"You're supposed to win. It's like a game where a lot is at stake but when you win, you actually don't take anything forward."
However, Dhoni added, Bangladesh's recent top form at home - including a 2-1 ODI series victory over India in June 2015 - translated into this victory meaning a lot more. "Things have changed. It's not like the 2004 Bangladesh team. They have a fantastic squad right now. They have improved a lot, and that's what is showing in their performance on the field. So it was an important one to win."
"As far as staying in the present is concerned, it always helps. If you start thinking about what happened when the last time we were here… of course you feel hurt, but what's important is to forget all of that and concentrate on the present. You can't do much about the past, you can only take the learnings from the past and that's what we did today."
Dhoni said the focus now turned to the World T20 for his team, which is already "in the groove" for the tournament. "If you see the kind of performances that the team has given, they will carry a lot of confidence into the World T20. They know what has been really going well for them, what their strengths are."
While he is satisfied with how the XI is looking, Dhoni said, he is also still waiting to see how Shami's recovery progresses; Nehra has "done very well" for the team but might be replaced by Shami if the latter can get fit in time. Shami was initially part of the Asia Cup squad, but was ruled out of the tournament after it was found he had failed to fully recover from a hamstring injury that had kept him out of the limited-overs series in Australia in January.
"Whether Shami is fit or not, we'll see. He still has a bit of time," Dhoni said. "The only reason he was picked was because, he is someone who can deliver with the old and new ball, yorkers being his strength.
"I think it's very difficult to replace [Jasprit] Bumrah. He has the strength of bowling yorkers at will, and with the new ball also he has contributed. Nehra has also contributed. Few games ups and downs happen in T20. Hardik Pandya, he's a fast-bowling allrounder. If Jadeja or him can bat No. 8 and they can give me three or four overs, then it looks like a better balanced side.
"For Shami to replace [someone], it would be Ashish. Ashish is the only slot, but to replace Ashish would be very tough. The reason being he has done very well for us, he has moved the ball around. But Shami will have to prove his fitness in the warm-up games. If he does, he will stay ahead with the team."
Nehra was India's joint second-highest wicket-taker at the Asia Cup, with six wickets at an average of 16.50. He was the most expensive of their specialist bowlers though, conceding 7.07 runs per over, with his poorest returns coming in the final where he took 1 for 33 in his three overs.