My wicket was the turning point - MS Dhoni
India's captain MS Dhoni has taken the burden of responsibility for a traumatic defeat in the fourth ODI against Australia at Manuka Oval, admitting it was his wicket so soon on the heels of Shikhar Dhawan's departure that changed the complexion of the match.
For many years Dhoni has taken responsibility for bringing run chases to a successful conclusion, and his third ball duck at the hands of John Hastings allowed momentum to swing violently from India to Australia. His wicket combined with an inexperienced Indian lower order left the visitors 25 runs in deficit at the end of the night; Dhoni seemed unsurprised that the remainder of the batting had folded under the pressure of the occasion.
"I think it was my wicket because that specifically is my role in the team from that kind of position to make sure we finish off the game well," Dhoni said. "So my wicket really was the turning point at that point of time, we lost quite a few there but it was my wicket because according to the role and responsibility that everybody has, that specifically is my role.
"That's what pressure does to you. A few of them have not played much international cricket, so at times it seems when you're batting in the middle playing that big shot is the right thing to do, but slowly and with more games under your belt you realise that's a time you have to carry on some kind of a partnership, and once you get used to the pace and bounce of the wicket then you can play the big shots.
"Hopefully they will learn out of this, it's the first few games they've played and maybe it's the first time in their career that they were under some kind of pressure. Hopefully they're learning."
Ajinkya Rahane split the webbing in his right hand while fielding and required stitches. Dhoni said that the effect of anaesthetic had lingered, stopping Rahane from batting until some feeling returned. "That was also a factor," Dhoni said. "He had a few stitches and he had to take local anaesthesia, so we had to wait and push him down the order so he could get some feeling back in his hand then he could bat."
Despite the dimensions of defeat, Dhoni insisted he and his team would not be despondent about the 4-0 series ledger. Instead, he pointed to the fact India were a few overs from a record victory, and that some of the explosiveness shown by Dhawan and Virat Kohli was a healthy pointer towards the looming World T20 in March.
"After the first three losses also people were saying it's very difficult to come back, but I felt in this game we batted really well," Dhoni said. "It also gives a glimpse of what you may see in the T20s, a lot of flamboyant cricket.
"Definitely we are disappointed, but still you want to take the positives and if we had batted better than we did from when I got out, this game could have been over in the 46 or 47th over. You look at it that way, you don't want to sink into something negative."
Kane Richardson, who claimed 5 for 68 to seal India's fate, agreed about the importance of Dhoni's wicket, and also stated that the hosts had been sustained by memories of a 2014 ODI against South Africa at this ground, when a similarly confident start to a chase had given way to a rush of wickets and a comfortable Australian victory. A sprinkling of rain between innings, Richardson thought, had prolonged the most comfortable batting conditions.
"We kept telling ourselves that we just needed to get one of those two out that were going really well," Richardson said. "For John [Hastings] to get Shikhar and then MS within two or three balls I think changed the momentum especially with Rahane being injured, so that was a key moment in the game. He deserves a lot of credit, 2 for 50 on that wicket when they're chasing 340, these last two games he's really led the attack well.
"I think from ball one we were hoping that. I think the rain played a part in that, it kept it coming on quite nicely, and at one stage it looked like we were going to lose in 40 overs to be honest. Last year against South Africa they were chasing a similar score and doing it very similarly as well. I think we got Amla out and it changed the game, so in the back of our heads that's what it was, but it's easy to say and hard to do."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig