'It's important to send the message across' - Dhoni
Mahendra Singh Dhoni hopes India's "significant" victory in the CB Series will silence those who criticised the youth-oriented squad selection for the tournament. Asserting his role in the selection of the young one-day side - he is India's ODI captain - he said it was "sometimes very important to send the message across".
"I was pretty clear about the players I wanted in the side," Dhoni told Cricinfo in a revealing interview where he spoke about the selection controversy for the first time. "That's what I said to the selectors as well. You can see the kind of team I got."
The team's selection became controversial after Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid were left out. While some criticised the decision to drop the seniors, others questioned the timing of the selection, a day after the historic win in the Perth Test. The selection also created a few ripples in the dressing room, it was learnt then.
Dhoni, though, is clear the time had come for a tough decision to be taken and felt vindicated after the final triumph. "It's very important because the process and the timing were criticised a lot," he said. "But sometimes it is very important to send the message across, because sometimes people neglect the answer."
He said he pointed out to the ODI team the questions that were being raised about the players and told them to perform.
It's evident that the criticism rankles even after winning the tournament. "What now? Why are people not asking the same questions now? Because if the result was not in our favour, what would have happened? Would the people have been really behind this side or behind individuals?"
A majority of the team had not played in Australia earlier and certain sections raised questions about their ability to handle demanding conditions. India's pathetic display in the one-off Twenty20 was seen as a sign of things to come but Dhoni was happy his side had overcome the odds.
"You [the critics] questioned this side but now that it's performed you need to back it," he said of India's first one-day series win in Australia in 23 years. "We all knew, and you all knew, what would have happened if this side didn't do well in Australia. Now that it has done well, why don't you appreciate the performance?
"We had one of the worst flops in Twenty20 and one of the best wins in the ODI series. Beating Australia is tough. That's why they have the best-of-three finals. You can have one good day and beat them but beating them in two consecutive matches is a significant achievement."
|We had set the standards back in India, when we played [the ODI series] against Australia. We knew what we really wanted to do on the field. If we were not up to the mark in Australia, people would have said it was fake aggression, something just for the public when playing at home|
Dhoni made it clear that the aggressive tactics against Australia were premeditated, going so far as to ensure that a few individuals made life difficult for the opposition. "In the CB Series you hardly saw any conflict between India and Sri Lanka," he said. "We had set the standards back in India, when we played [the ODI series] against Australia. We knew what we really wanted to do on the field. If we were not up to the mark in Australia, people would have said it was fake aggression, something just for the public when playing at home. We were with the same set of standards even when we played against Australia in Australia. It was not fake aggression, that's how this team can play."
Did he think the best way to beat Australia was by playing their brand of cricket? "If your playing against an aggressive side, you need to play an aggressive game," he said. "Especially against Australia, you can't just look to play and win - it's batting, bowling, fielding, aggression, everything. Fortunately this side has got a few players who can speak and do well at the same time and won't get disturbed by it. And there are others who don't speak that much.
"But you need to identify those who can be pepped up and do well while they're speaking. In a way I'm fortunate to have those players in the side, rather than ask those who are not comfortable doing it. If you have a guy who is able to do it and who should do it, I make it a point that he is doing it. I won't name names but there were individuals who were saying things, within the boundaries."
Despite all the elation over the win, Dhoni said it was important not to get carried away with this victory and urged his players to cultivate the winning habit. "Of course you can't live by it," he said of the recent win. "You need to perform consistently and if you're raising the standard you have to stand by it. You have to keep on doing well."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan and Nagraj Gollapudi are assistant editors at Cricinfo