India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 5th day March 18, 2013

We felt the pressure during chase - Dhoni


As much as India have exerted control and dominance over Australia in this series, the last stretch towards a six-wicket victory in Mohali rattled their nerves. India were coasting towards the target of 133 with their openers putting on 42 in 9.2 overs, and the third-wicket partnership between Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar adding 33 in 8.2. At the start of the last mandatory hour of play, India had set themselves 45 off 15 overs. When Kohli fell with the score on 103, India needed 30 off 56 balls. The new man MS Dhoni struggled to rotate the strike against a fired-up Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc, and the scoring rate began to fall.

At the end of the game, Dhoni said it had got close and he did not want to gamble in that position by launching into his signature big hits, even though Australia had packed the inner ring with single-saving fielders ."Yes it got close. If you see I don't gamble, but the stakes were high in the sense we had everything to lose and literally we had nothing to gain."

He agreed that India did stand to gain "satisfaction that we are winning one more Test match", but it had been Australia's gains that played on his mind. "But the Aussies, if they had won, it would have given them a chance to come back into the series." Several other factors, he said, played on his mind: that India were without one batsman, due to an injury to Shikhar Dhawan, as well as "the fact that from No. 7 to 11, we had not exactly scored a lot of runs. All these things play at the back of your head."

Dhoni said it was important that India had set batsmen to take them through the last three or four overs. "Even if we need six runs an over for three to four overs, you can try to explode and lose a few wickets -it doesn't really matter but that was not the case. We lost M Vijay when there was a sound partnership and kept losing wickets at regular intervals. So it got close with one batsman less [Dhawan], the lower order is not really performing well. We were under a bit of pressure."

Dhoni said it had been Dhawan's high-speed Test century on debut, along with his 289-opening stand with Vijay, that had given India the momentum they needed in the match. "What was important for him was to play his natural game. He backed himself to play a few shots… Also the pace at which both the openers scored, that was important because we didn't bat the same amount of overs but we got more runs than Australia."

There was a distinct possibility, Dhoni said, that Dhawan "may not" play in Delhi, his hometown, and that the lure of a 4-0 whitewash was not going to be a factor going into the last Test. "You have to see the stakes. Everyone wants to win a million-dollar lottery but it depends on whether you buy a ticket for five dollars or five-hundred. You have to weigh everything. Because what you want is a series win to start off. And that's the most crucial thing. It doesn't matter what has happened in last series."

Dhoni said the main difference with the home series against England was the failure of the Indian batsmen then to not score runs consistently. "It is important to put the runs on board for the bowlers. The pressure of 500-550 runs is a very different kind of pressure."

The series result against Australia, Dhoni added, would have little bearing on the winter tour of South Africa because of the duration between the two. "In India people talk of span of memory and the next series we have got is ages away. I don't think anyone will remember what we have done in this series. The interval is too long to carry forward this memory. Maybe some people will make an half-an-hour show on the last series that we played but overall I don't think common people will carry this memory for that long."

The decision to drop Harbhajan Singh and pick Pragyan Ojha, Dhoni said, had to do with the fact that Australia had reduced the number of left-handers in their side, bringing in the right-handed Brad Haddin for the injured Matthew Wade. Dhoni made it clear that the decision to leave out Ojha had to do with the India's "horses for courses" approach. "It's not like Pragyan was left out because he was not bowling well, he has bowled really well in the last series… but you can say it was that horses for courses kind of thing. Since [Ravindra] Jadeja is also someone who is bowling well for us, we thought with [two other] offspinners we could put pressure on opposition."

Talking about the bowling combination that may play the final Test in Delhi, Dhoni said, "[Whether or not] Delhi will be same or Bhajji comes in, we have to see because we will also have to provide Pragyan the same amount of chances in the Test matches."

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rajul on March 20, 2013, 17:51 GMT

    Australia was nowhere near winning the last test but Clarke "believed'' he could win while our much hyped" I will take the match to the last over/ball finisher" (read Dhoni) felt the pressure. For scoring 45 runs in 15 overs? Wonder how we became the World cup holders and current No 1 side in ODI's. MSD must understand that there is more to Indian team than just Mr Dhoni. He has been doing this for quite sometime now but Mohali test was the last straw for many of his fans like me.

  • Rakesh on March 19, 2013, 15:26 GMT

    Its surprising to hear Dhoni talk of defeat when his team has so utterly dominated the series. Shows a ultra defensive mindset and a lack of confidence in his and the team's abilities. If it were not for Clarke's spirited attempt to liven up the game by going after the Indians aggressively (in the process bowling more overs for India to get the target), the game would have meandered to a draw very easily. I think in the end India was lucky to bag the win given the way they approached the target, especially the captain's ultra-defensive approach. Perhaps, Sachin's run-out was a blessing in disguise which allowed Jadeja to come in and infuse some life into the proceedings with his positive approach. Given Dhoni's comments its unlikely India will be pushing very hard for a win in the fourth test for a 4-0 win. They might be quite happy not to lose and win 3-0. His post match comments would be a series win is all that matters, 3-0 or 4-0 doesn't matter! C'mon!Its a once in a lifetime chanc

  • Vivek on March 19, 2013, 14:58 GMT

    Don't forget that he has done it successfully for India more times than not. And no one before his time has done it as he does it consistently. And yes there may be occasions when it proves a bit tough for the team but then he is a human after all. May be he would have done it the way people wanted if there had been another player who has similar level of confidence and ability like him! So please try to appreciate for what he does to the team than just making hateful comments. Anyways he is proving it again and again that he is reliable, which is what matters the most for the team victories.

  • Alex on March 19, 2013, 14:38 GMT

    Dhoni is plain lucky. he got the greatest skill in the world. LUCK. He is useless other than that.

  • Andrew on March 19, 2013, 13:55 GMT

    While I am a big fan of Dhoni especially for his commitment to the team, I agree with all those who criticise him for making the match situation more difficult. He is being selfish at times, trying to put the team at risk and prove he is a hero and glorify victories. I hope people start accusing him of doing it so that hopefully he would stop that habit of his. We all know how cool he is in tense situations but that doesn't mean he should try to put the team at risk just to prove it again and again.

  • Bipul on March 19, 2013, 13:37 GMT

    Had aussies not cleaned up Indian tail quickly, Dhoni would have never declared because of so called pressure. India would have ended up with a draw. He needs to grow up and get more confident about the team he has.

  • gurinder on March 19, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    dhoni reveals a lot less than he conseals, he is strongest cricketer mentally of last few decades that i know. he is not the most gifted wk or batsman around neither a shrewd captain, but oh boy, he is so mentally strong. india might have drew test if sachin or ganguly were captains , dhoni has absolute confidence in his limited capabilities, much like cook. both are limited batsmen but mentally strong, direct opposite to say sachin or kp.

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 11:44 GMT

    Fully agree with @PTthe Axis &HarryGlow.Huge enigma that M S Dhoni is,he almost made a hash of y'day's victory by his ultra cautious,ridiculous 'I don't gamble...' approach, if it were not for Jadeja shifting to top gear which was just the catalyst for MSD's sudden flurry of 4s

  • Daison on March 19, 2013, 11:27 GMT

    It is ridiculous to hear some guys coming up with suggestions that the Double Hundred in first test by Dhoni was fluke just because he played and missed a few shots in this game. What are the chances of he having a bad day yesterday? And the same guy is saying people are not lazy to forget so fast. Well he sure did forget so fast!!!