Dhoni demands more from bowlers and fielders
India have crashed out early from a second ICC tournament in less than four months after being one of the favourites to win, leaving the captain MS Dhoni wondering where the campaign unravelled. Australia pipped Pakistan in a last-ball thriller in the day game in Centurion, making India's match against West Indies a dead rubber, which India went on to win convincingly by seven wickets.
"I do feel disappointed but frankly speaking I find it difficult to say if we were up for this tournament or not," Dhoni said. "We were off the boil against Pakistan and we lost. Then we had a washout and we won the match against West Indies. I can't say if our performance was bad."
After winning the Compaq Cup in Colombo earlier this month, Dhoni had said the bowling and fielding needed to improve but the two departments weren't at their best in Champions Trophy. "We will reflect on how our bowlers bowled with too much width and how much work we need to put into our fielding department. That needs some work but these things are not going to change overnight. We have to put in much more effort."
One of the bright spots for India was Virat Kohli's mature batting against West Indies; he was the only batsman to make a half-century in the match, finishing on an unbeaten 79. Kohli batted at No. 4 on Wednesday, and in his short career has already opened the innings and also played at No. 7. "I am happy to bat up or down the order as the team needs. I got experience of that in the IPL, where I was shuffled around the order too much," Kohli said after his Man-of-the-Match performance. "I am happy to bat up the order because that gives me more overs to face and I can win matches for the team that way. But if I am to be down the order then that's not too much of a problem."
One of Dhoni's surprise moves against West Indies was to bring himself on to bowl in the 17th over. He handed the wicketkeeping duties to Dinesh Karthik and sent down a two-over spell in which he got his first international wicket by bowling Travis Dowlin. "I bowl regularly in the nets and I decided that the pitch would be good for me to bowl on," Dhoni said. "We had two first-choice fast bowlers and two spinners and a reserve bowler in Abhishek Nayar. So, I thought if I could put in a couple of good overs that would be the way to go and the proper bowlers would be left to do the job at the end."
India head home early from South Africa and most of the players have some time off before a seven-ODI home series against Australia beginning in the last week of October. Those part of the Deccan Chargers, Bangalore Royal Challengers and Delhi Daredevils, however, will take part in the Champions League. Dhoni said that the team had "good time to prepare for the Australia series" but hoped that his key players - India were missing Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh in South Africa - would be fit.