Dhoni praises bowlers for clean sweep
MS Dhoni was full of praise for his bowlers, and the way his side showed character despite injuries to key players, following India's clean sweep of Australia in the two-Test series.
Both Tests in this series were heading towards draws before India's bowlers triggered Australia's second-innings collapses, setting up close finishes in each of the games. "I think the effort put in by the players, especially the bowlers, was really outstanding because by losing tosses I am not really helping them out," Dhoni said.
"Every time, especially in the subcontinent, we are having to bowl first. First innings [in Bangalore] we couldn't get any kind of reverse-swing because the wicket and the square were not so dry, which meant they had to turn up and look for alternative ways to get the batsmen out. Still they were more than willing to come up with spells whenever needed. This was not a track where a match can get over in four-and-a-half days. It was not a turning track where the spinners can just bowl and get wickets."
As has often been the case of late, India played a Test series without their first-choice XIs, and also lost players along the way. VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma needed injections and tablets to stand up straight, but they rescued India in a famous finish in Mohali. Gautam Gambhir, too, injured his knee and had to sit out.
All the three replacements, though, did their jobs in Bangalore, and Dhoni acknowledged that. "Not only in Tests, we have been playing series without our key players," Dhoni said. "Consistently we have not played our strongest side.
"I am fortunate to have a side that has performed very well in the past one-and-a-half years and the credit goes to them. Whether it is the youngsters or the seniors, they have always performed whenever they get the opportunity. Individuals like Murali Vijay, who is not consistently featuring in the XI because we have Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir doing the job for us. But whenever he has got an opportunity to play games, he has scored decent amount of runs. You could complain maybe that he got the kind of start he needed, but hasn't scored big runs. In this match, he really made it big. He got the start, went onto cross the century barrier, and continued his innings. It was a good learning experience for him. In the same way [Cheteshwar] Pujara, too, batted really well."
Having beaten Australia, their biggest rivals over the last decade, 2-0 in their last two series, Dhoni said India needed to create bowling reserves if they were to dominate world cricket like Australia did. "If our bowling lot can grow - four-five good fast bowlers, and one or two more spinners, the workload can be spread," Dhoni said. "It is very difficult for the fast bowlers to play every Test. Within the next 20 days, we will start another three-match series on similar wickets. You just can't turn up there and put the ball there, these pitches take a lot of effort. There is a lot of pressure on the fast bowlers, and especially with the four-bowler combination, spinners have to bowl a lot of overs. Especially when the captain keeps losing the toss."
Dhoni also credited the side for having come together well despite the limited time for preparation. "The whole team didn't get a chance to have practice sessions together because some of the boys were playing the Champions League," Dhoni said. "We got limited time, but what is impressive is the way we utilised those practice sessions in the right manner. Everyone was up for it."
Dhoni made it a point to praise the team for handling the pressure situations well. "Most of the times, this is a series that has plenty of hype created around it, and it's good that it ended without any controversy... One good thing in both the Test matches, even though the last-innings targets were not huge, was that there was pressure on both the sides. Ultimately it was a close finish in both the games. You may look at this scorecard and say this was an easy win, but still there was nervousness in the dressing room. I think it was a good short Test series we had."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo