Captaincy success 'overhyped' - Dhoni
Victory in the Hyderabad Test has made MS Dhoni the most successful captain in Indian cricket, with 22 Test wins and two world titles in the limited-overs game - the 2007 ICC World T20 title and the 2011 World Cup.
At the end of the Hyderabad Test, where India stomped over Australia by an innings and 135 runs taking an unassailable 2-0 lead, Dhoni waved away his numero uno standing as India captain, and said it was "over-rated and hyped."
"If you see our dressing room right now, we are not bothered about who has won how many matches. What's important is to win Test matches. The more consistent we become the better it is for the side. I don't think this number really matters for us. What's important is that the last two matches we have done really well."
A Dhoni media briefing can be a wide-ranging explanation of tactics, glimpses of personal philosophy and more importantly, a reflection of the team management's thinking. Post-Hyderabad this is what it looks like: Virender Sehwag's position in the squad is a bit iffy, Harbhajan Singh is safe and if Cheteshwar Pujara pays too much attention on performing outside India, he won't relish the present.
Asked if Sehwag was on borrowed time and would be persisted with, Dhoni called the question a "difficult one." He said a 'wait and watch' was necessary before the selectors meet to pick the team for Mohali and Delhi. "You have to create a balance... You also need to see what situation we are in, because we will be touring abroad and we don't have that many Test matches after this series. In between we hardly play any Tests and we go off to South Africa… I won't really like to comment."
It was not as ringing an endorsement as was enjoyed by Harbhajan Singh, who Dhoni said had "shown improvement" in his last three Tests. Harbhajan, he said, had given him a very important option due to the number of left-handers in the Australian line-up.
"He played against England and people weren't happy. I could also not make him bowl the amount of overs that I would have liked to. That's the case with three spinners. Often one of them will be slightly under-utilised."
He believed the pressure of Harbhajan playing his 100th Test was "was always there on him. What's important is how he has overcome that. I felt he bowled well in the second innings in Chennai and he has shown improvement in this game. He is bowling in one area which is very important. Of course you will have one lead spinner, but when it comes to the second spinner you may have to choose horses for courses."
In an interview to the BCCI's official website, Pujara had said that he would judge himself on how he performed in 'tough overseas conditions."
Asked if this attitude was important for a young player to have on his team, Dhoni replied, "I think he watches too many media channels because that's what really happens. I have always said you need to be in the present. Of course he has set his own standards but what is important to enjoy what you have done. What he has done or what anyone has done. No point in saying you have done well in India; go out and do it and we will judge you as a batsman." While Pujara may himself have made that comment himself, Dhoni said, "but that's my point - we all love to comment that way, but it's also important to enjoy the moment. You have done well; so enjoy the moment. That will be my suggestion to him. He will score runs… that's a different story."
India's marked difference in recent performance home and away, Dhoni said, was a reflection of the variety of conditions that made Test cricket challenging. "You have to realise 80 or 70 per cent of the matches you play in your home conditions. You have to be good there. As I always say, once you go abroad the conditions are totally different and that's a challenge. That's what improves our Test cricket over a period of time. I think the sides that have players who have toured the sub-continent or of us who have played in other countries, they have been able to perform quite consistently."
"I feel it's still a challenge, that's what is special about Test cricket. You go abroad, you have different conditions, you come to the sub-continent, the wicket becomes slow and low. If everything becomes the same, Test cricket won't be challenging."
He said India had lifted itself off from the series loss against England by putting in an all-round effort in all disciplines. "Against England we were not at our best. We were not scoring enough runs, we were not putting huge totals on the board for our bowlers to be aggressive. All these things play a crucial part. You can't just rely on your batting or bowling, as a unit you have to do well. Once you score runs, automatically you will see bowlers doing well. It works the other way as well, if the bowlers are bowling well it creeps into your batting also." In the current series using a fifth bowler in Jadeja had worked well at home.
When asked what his advice would be to Michael Clarke, Dhoni said his only piece of advice would be that, "screaming [at his team] won't really help". But he added he wouldn't want to "poke his nose because it's a bit unfair. You need to respect your opponents… you don't give Australians bit more advice as they are very competitive and they can come back strongly in the series." He said Australia could take back positives from the series that they would have a pool of players the next time they travelled to the subcontinent who would be, "better equipped to handle the conditions. I think it's a win-win situation for them. Just that they have to be a bit patient."
The difference the Hyderabad pitch made for the spinners was that it had started to turn once the ball got old. In the second session on day one, India were unable to find turn and couldn't break the Michael Clarke-Matthew Wade partnership, "That session we struggled a bit. All of a sudden the ball became soft and once we came back after tea, we saw that spinners were able to get a bit of turn and put pressure on the opposition."
India used that knowledge to impose themselves on Australia in the second innings on Monday evening. "We bowled close to 32 odd overs and gave away 72 or 73 runs. We had runs in hand, and we were waiting for the ball to turn soft. It's one of the reasons why we wanted Ishant with the semi-new ball today. He got us that important breakthrough and because of that we were able to put pressure on their batting."
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo