Australia v India, 10th ODI, CB Series, Sydney February 24, 2008

Dhoni focuses on the positives


Gautam Gambhir is currently the leading run-scorer in the CB series © Getty Images
 

Instead of being disappointed over the narrow loss to Australia, Mahendra Singh Dhoni chose to focus on the positives; he praised his bowlers for recovering from the initial assault and lauded Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa for being undaunted by the big total following an early collapse.

"It was quite difficult to recover from the kind of the start," Dhoni said, after India fought back from a dismal 4 for 50 to come within 18 runs of the 317 Australia had amassed. "It was getting closer and closer with the way Gautam and Robin batted. We were fortunate enough to make it a close match."

Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, also felt his bowlers, who have consistently pulled the team out of holes the batsmen had been creating during the series, relaxed after another bright start. "We started our bowling very well and Brett [Lee] once again showed the knack at getting breakthroughs," he said. "The game got closer than we'd have liked to. It's the first time our bowlers have been under a bit of pressure and we've got some work to do to make sure we get our stuff right."

Ponting was also unstinting in his praise for the architects of India's turnaround. "Gambhir and Uthappa played well," he said. "Gambhir worked the ball around well, especially to third man, hit some good clean shots, ran well. His innings was terrific."

Despite a disastrous start to their chase, India recovered with Gambhir and Dhoni steadying the innings with a 98-run stand. Once Dhoni fell to the accurate Lee, Uthappa - who made a brisk 51 - stitched together a valuable partnership that kept Indian hopes alive. "There was a time when we weren't thinking about getting 300 runs," Dhoni said. "We were just thinking of partnerships."

Dhoni also said that playing the extra batsman, instead of persisting with the five-bowler theory, had paid dividends as the part-time bowlers, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag, were the most economical. "The way our part-timers took the responsibility and bowled well, I was quite happy."

The Australian batsmen went on the rampage right from the start, with 100 runs coming off the first 12 overs. Powered by Ponting's century, they became the first team in the tournament to go past the 300-mark. Dhoni, though, wasn't concerned over the big total posted and was satisfied with the bowlers' performance. "We did quite well to restrict them to 317 when at one stage it seemed it was going to 340 or even 350."

One worry for India throughout the series has been the inconsistency of some of the top-order batsmen. Though Dhoni wanted the big guns to contribute more, he defended their performances. "Both our openers have been getting out to good balls. It's not as if they are playing rash shots or being irresponsible," he said. "At the international level you have to accept that. The only thing you can do is give your 100% and they are doing that."

Asked whether there would be any changes at the top of the order, Dhoni was reluctant to play his card. "There are options to make Robin or Gautam [Gambhir] open, but the way Gautam is playing I don't want him to open," he said. "Also it depends on the pitches and the conditions, so I'm not sure on that."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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