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."
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