India 'satisfactory' despite early exit - Dhoni
MS Dhoni, speaking with a catch in his voice that betrayed his acute disappointment, has called for a "practical" assessment of India's failure to make the knockouts of the World Twenty20 for the third successive time. Dhoni said it was important to remember that India had lost only one game during the tournament, against Australia, and he maintained that rain during that match had handicapped his bowlers.
"The same question was asked when we lost in England and Australia," Dhoni said when asked whether the side needed an overhaul after recent failures. "This is one question that arises when we have not done well but just see the performance in this tournament. We lost one game and lost it badly.
"We all know what impact rain has on the bowlers, especially spinners and bowlers who don't bowl 140 [kph] plus. Let's get practical about what the reason was and then assess if it's the fault of the players. It is not. It can happen in this format. You are at the stage where other games are having an impact. You don't want that kind of situation to happen but sometimes you are just forced to accept what is pushed on to you."
India had to beat South Africa by at least 31 runs to qualify for the semi-finals ahead of Pakistan on net run-rate and Dhoni said that was too steep a difference to achieve. Overall, Dhoni said India's showing in the tournament was acceptable. "The performance was otherwise satisfactory. We didn't think that the other match [Pakistan v Australia] would impact us so much. We knew that it would affect us but the required margin while winning was too big so we had a problem."
Dhoni said going into the game, India's plan was to restrict South Africa and chase the target with a few overs to spare. "As per the equation our strategy was to field first and then score whatever the target at a fast pace, 15 or 16 overs. So that is why we thought that if we play an extra batsman that would be helpful for us. We needed to win by a margin of 30-odd runs so [I] was not so comfortable while making the strategy because when you are batting first you don't know what is a good score."
During South Africa's chase, India were relying on the fast bowlers to get them early wickets, Dhoni said. "We wanted to make use of the new ball initially. I knew that if our fast bowlers could swing it a bit and get those early breakthroughs in the first six overs, then we could put pressure through the spinners. But if we tried the other way around, it is more than certain that if the fast bowlers come on later, it will be difficult for them to get batsmen out unless they play a rash shot. We started with fast bowlers, got the breakthroughs, but then they batted quite well and Rohit's (Sharma) over went for runs. But 120 was quite a low target to defend. We won this game by one run, so it is difficult to say that if a few strategies had been changed, we could have defeated them big."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo