Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day January 15, 2012

I am the main culprit - Dhoni


After India's seventh straight loss away from home, MS Dhoni almost admitted that he has been saying the same things at press conferences after his side has made the same mistakes for seven Tests and lost them all. He said he was the "main culprit" because he was the captain. He also said he was more disappointed with his batting than the captaincy.

"I need to blame myself," Dhoni said. "I am the leader of the side. I am the main culprit so of course I blame myself.

"[For] Not getting runs more because tactics is something you do on the field depending on the execution of all the players. Ultimately execution is important. If you are consistent … just for example, if you take the bowling department, if the bowlers bowl consistently on one line then you have the option of defending that side of the field, and then having catching fielders to catch the mistimed shots.

"If you are not consistent when it comes to the line and length, with nine fielders if you want to have two slips and a gully and the rest of the fielders to defend, it becomes really difficult. That's what the Australians have taught us, how to be consistent in bowling lines and lengths. Ultimately force the batsman to make a mistake."

Dhoni also admitted this was among the worst times he has seen in cricket. "As far as the amount of cricket that I have seen this is definitely one of the worst phases where we have not done well consistently," he said. "Again I am repeating myself, four Tests in England, three Tests here, we have not put runs on the board. [In] Bowling, I think [in] England because of injuries we had a bit of a setback.

"Over here I think we have not been as consistent [as we would like], [but] if you see this particular Test match, apart from that session where David Warner attacked the bowlers, I don't think they bowled badly. He just went after the bowlers, and it became difficult to contain him. Once he got out we were able to put pressure on the rest of the batsmen who came in, and we got them out cheaply. Overall I don't think bowling is a real worry. Of course we have not consistently bowled well also, but what's really consistent is the batting line-up flopping. We have to score at least 300 to 325-odd runs depending on the wicket, which we haven't been able to."

Then of course it was back to what might sound like the same reasons but in words sterner than before. "In the games that we have played in England and the three Tests over here, we haven't put enough runs on the board," Dhoni said. "There is only one instance where we have scored over 350 [in the second innings in Sydney]. That's something we need to be careful about. Because we want to give bowlers those amount of runs so that they can look to get the opposition out. One or two bad innings can happen in Test cricket, but overall I think seven Test matches is a bit long for the batting line-up to fail."

Dhoni said the team needed a couple of really good sessions to turn it around. "Somebody will have to step up, rise to the occasion, and get those good sessions," he said. "Especially when it comes to the batting. Once the number of matches [in which] we haven't scored runs increases, the pressure keeps on mounting. The only way to get out of this pressure is to put runs on the board. It's always one innings that starts a different mentality altogether. Somebody will have to step up and do the rightful thing."

"It's not like he [Fletcher] has become coach and we have lost two series, and all the blame needs to go to him. Ultimately, it's the players who go in there, and look to perform. The coaches look to motivate and work on few technical areas, they help out. Overall it's about the 11 players who go out there to bat and take wickets."
MS Dhoni

Dhoni was asked if the new coach Duncan Fletcher, reputed to be very good when it comes to batting technique, had done his job properly. He came out in full support of Fletcher. "He is a great guy to have," Dhoni said. "[Someone] Who has got a great knowledge about the game. He is one the most experienced coaches around. The small interesting technical things he knows about batting and bowling; it's very crucial to have.

"It's not like he has become coach and we have lost two series, and all the blame needs to go to him. Ultimately, it's the players who go in there, and look to perform. The coaches look to motivate and work on few technical areas, they help out. Overall it's about the 11 players who go out there to bat and take wickets."

Dhoni is known to not show too much emotion after the biggest of wins and the gravest of defeats. He was asked if this was the time his side needed a sterner talk, a kick up their backsides. "What is important is what kind of culture you belong to, what really works for your side, what kind of man-management skills you got," Dhoni said. "I feel every man needs to be managed in a different way.

There are certain people [with whom] who you need to get personal and explain what's to be done. And there are some who need to be treated your [the harsh] way. Most of our cricketers have really stepped up when the need has come, and we don't need to take any extreme steps. Of course we need to do well as soon as possible and there will be pressure on everyone. It's just not players, even the support staff. Most of us are feeling bad about this. At the end of the day we are professional cricketers but we are also human beings."

Dhoni's statement that he might consider retirement from Tests in 2013 has come under severe criticism from former India captain Sourav Ganguly. Ganguly spoke of Dhoni's "complete disinterest in the longest format of the game" and said that he definitely felt that Dhoni didn't enjoy Tests. Dhoni reassured against those claims. "Only I know how seriously I am taking it," he said. "For anybody else to judge how seriously I take something is difficult."

Dhoni also said that all won't be forgotten if the side goes back to India and starts winning home matches. "Maybe we will go back to India and do well," he said. "What we have to realise is how to do well when we come out of India. We need to take steps as to what can be done. These are the things we need to be careful about."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • GravyMon on January 18, 2012, 18:40 GMT

    Part 1/4 (Revised): Captain Dhoni's post-match mea culpa may have been quite the noble thing to do, if only he hadn't tried in the next breath to throw his young bowling charges under the bus. Have a thought for him, though; after all, it was under his watch and guidance that India lost 7 proverbial cricket battleships at sea, one after another. Loss is only acceptable when you have given of your best efforts and fall just short of your goal. India is yet to show up in the park and put her best on show.

    If Dhoni thinks that his batting was worse than his leadership on the field, and is of the honest opinion that he gave his best effort as captain, then it is quite evident that ship SS Cricket-India is in serious need of a steady hand at the wheel. A great Test captain once said that Captaincy is 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent skill, but that it shouldn't be tried without that 10 per cent. Dhoni, it would appear, lacks most of the 10%.

  • vint on January 18, 2012, 2:16 GMT

    Dhoni's a good captain, he just needs the right guys filling in the batting positions. I believe that dravid and laxman retire asap and tendulkar has to hang around for another year or so to help with the transition.... In terms of Fletcher look what he did with the england side in 2006 ashes in aus... best solution is to add kapil dev into the support staff roles

  • shreyas3305 on January 17, 2012, 6:59 GMT

    being a top team in the listings is easier than consistently maintaining it. Australia has shown this in the past. Now that India was on top in all three formats and now they have started declining, some things should be sorted out. Its not wise to blame an individual but we need to understand why dont we have good bowlers after the duo of J Srinath & V Prasad. Zaheer khan is over rated, half of his career was in the injury list. he should start thinking of retirement in long format of the game. Harbhajan is sure to comeback but i m impressed with Ashwin as well. Vinay Kumar has been given a lot of chances, he better starts playing the domestic competitions. coming to the batting line for which we have been known has shown some disasters in last few months. VVS - retirement is on. Dravid still has some life (6 tons last year). Sachin,as an individual he has been performing odd fifties. Gambhir - wake up call. Sehwag - trump card(not dependable) Dhoni - not good for test captaincy.

  • Jaggadaaku on January 17, 2012, 5:57 GMT

    First time Mr. Cold said truth and meaning-less.

  • Liontamer on January 17, 2012, 5:30 GMT

    This is not Dhoni's fault. He is just taking it on his chin, because he is being a responsible captain. That's all. The bottom line is Aussies bowled a disciplined line and length which our batsmen frankly are not good enough to handle. IPL and 20-20 screwed up the discipline, patience and fous that the batsmen need for test cricket. The only solution for this problem is to have separate batting squads to play 20-20, one days and test cric. We got plenty of players to pack teams for each of these formats. For example yuvi, sehwag, yosuf, Dhoni, suresh raina etc should playing 20-20 and one days and keep away from test cricket altogether. Then there are test prospects like kohli, Rohit sharma, Robin uttappa etc should be protected and limit them to tests and one days. Of course the players have a choice.

  • rosltd1 on January 17, 2012, 0:03 GMT

    Dhoni - Retire Now , Laxman OUT , Gambhir Out , -- Plenty of Young talent in india - Give them a chance

  • sachinsjaihindustan on January 16, 2012, 23:07 GMT

    Tysonlanka, you are right. The Australian bowlers were relentlesss, not only with their pace and swing, but more importantly with line and length. But there is no denying that the batting has been below par from India. It is concerning to see the same mode of dismissal over and over again. They are continuously playing the ball away from the body, in front of the pads. Hence they lose their balance with the defensive shots and end up offering catching practice to Brad Haddin and the slip cordon. Compare this to England in the ashes last year. They were so good in leaving the ball outside the off stump, forcing the Aussie bowlers to bowl more towards middle. Once that happened they would easily hit the ball throught the on side. Everyone can see the poor batting technique of Indian batsmen (except for Tendulkar at times, whose scored far more runs than his team mates). But it takes a lot of effort to correct these bad habits, once they become part of your game.

  • chak-day on January 16, 2012, 18:46 GMT

    2 simple reasons why india keep loosing outside india 1, The batsmen are not of a quality to face seam and swing. What Shoaib akhtar said about tendulkar is enough to semmerise. He (tendulkar) walked away without the ball nicked his bat (he cant face real pace and bounce). 2, The bowlers are not real threat to the world class batsmen. It is almost impossible for them to bowel out any world good batting team under 200.

    Be realistic, dhoni taking responsibility is not a reason.

  • GravyMon on January 16, 2012, 16:43 GMT

    Part 2/4: Dhoni hangs around a little too much waiting for things to fall into place, while Rome burns in the process. Were I him, I would seek out the advice of past captains like Sourav Ganguly (still India's best captain), Anil Kumble or Kapel Dev. They were good gritty fighters, and could all teach him how to better marshal his troops; certainly more so than he has done so far. Although India has really never been a true No. 1 Test team, their best performances have been under the leadership of "We know, and they know, that we can beat them" Ganguly. The man never said die. The current situation is not as bad as 1976 when Bedi's team literally threw in the towel in a Test match in the WI, but it must still be quite painful for him to witness his country's gutless surrender.

  • GravyMon on January 16, 2012, 16:42 GMT

    Part 3/4: Yes, it's true that India is an aging 11, but she still boasts 3 of the best Test batsmen today. With half a chance, that trio can plot and scheme to prevent losses, and even get the occasional victory. In the Series so far, they have had little chance to do either, partly because of Australia's ascendancy, mostly because overall leadership was found lacking.

    Dhoni hints at phasing in new blood, but is he aware that the blood type mostly in demand is of the captain's variety? Anyway, while new blood is vital to the survival of any team, no selection of infusion can help India unless attitudes change. India is highly vulnerable to sustained speed on fast bouncy tracks, and while BCCI's powers may seem limitless, I don't see any low dusty spin-assisted drop-in pitches on opponents' home turf. It's time to prepare better cricket wickets in India. Their batsmen and bowlers need to develop the proper technique for creditable performances on sporty pitches away from home.

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