Premature to write us off - Dhoni
MS Dhoni, captain of the beleaguered Indian side in Australia, has admitted that five straight losses away from home have hit the self-belief of his side a bit, but said that to write them off no-hopers on fast pitches would be premature. Responding to Australia coach Mickey Arthur's comments that his side had dealt India a few psychological blows, he said his side had hoped to make Australia "walk the walk" too.
"That's what you think [that India are not good in testing conditions]," Dhoni said. "If you see the kind of players we have got, that will be a very premature statement to make. What we have seen is, we have always bounced back and the Australian team will have to keep the pressure on the batting line-up and the bowlers. It's just that we have not performed in the first Test, and we'll look to improve in the second."
India's ability to come back from early losses was the hallmark of the side that rose to the No. 1 ranking, but it went missing when under constant pressure in England. Dhoni noted that the big difference from that tour is that all players are fit. He also said it was important not to get bogged down after a poor year in Tests.
"It does affect it [the belief] a bit, but it's not something to get bogged down about because we all know the reasons as to what exactly happened," Dhoni said. "You learn a lot from the mistakes you make so we are looking at the positives. In the last five Test matches abroad that we have lost, we have still had plenty of positives in those particular games."
One of his worries has been Gautam Gambhir's form at the top. "Opening is a very crucial thing for us," he said. "Whenever we have done well, we have relied a lot on the opening pair. We don't really want to put pressure on the opening batsmen, because if you see, [Virender] Sehwag is the kind of batsman who loves to go out there and play his strokes and looks to put pressure on the opposition and in the same way, Gautam equally complements Sehwag because he's someone who takes his time to get in. But if it's in his area, he loves to play his strokes so overall, both the batsmen really complement each other, run really well between the wickets, so it's not a big concern.
"It's always good to leave deliveries because initially it [the Kookaburra ball] does a bit more, and after the first 15 or 20 overs we have seen that it doesn't do the same amount as the new ball does. That's something we're definitely working on, but again, you don't want Virender Sehwag to leave too many balls because he's someone who relishes his cut shot, so if it's in his area he'll play his shots."
Even in Australia, Sachin Tendulkar has hardly gone anywhere without being reminded of the 100th international hundred. Local papers feel it's almost preordained for him to get it during the SCG Test, the 100th at the venue. Dhoni insisted it wasn't putting any extra pressure on Tendulkar.
"Well, he's always close to a milestone," Dhoni said. "If you see his career in the last three years, whatever he has done, somehow he has been very close to a milestone, whether he's playing the most number of ODIs or Test matches or the 100th hundred or all the things. Playing for 21-22 years and being at the top always, it's bound to happen. You'll be overtaking all the records or, if not, there'll be something you're creating, so it's not something that puts pressure on him.
"I don't think he personally thinks about it a lot. Of course, the quicker he achieves it, it will ease off whatever the so-called pressure is on him. He doesn't really talk about it and it never feels as if he's under any sort of pressure when it comes to scoring the 100th hundred."
Dhoni said the back-to-back Tests didn't bother him. "Personally, I've been a big fan of less gaps between games because that helps to keep you glued to the cricket and to see exactly what's happening . I think we've still got enough time between Test matches."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo