India v Australia, 5th ODI, Vadodara October 11, 2007

'Our preparation was excellent' - Ponting



'I'm not sure if we outsmarted India but we certainly outperformed them' - Ponting © AFP

Ricky Ponting thought he had India under pressure from the very first ball and Mahendra Singh Dhoni conceded that India were "never really in the game," as the two rival captains addressed contrasting press conferences soon after Australia took an unassailable 3-1 lead in this seven-match series. While Ponting was detailed and articulate in his responses, Dhoni understandably had less to say, and though he was jovial and doing his best to keep his humour, clearly did not enjoy the way things had gone.

"I'm not sure if we outsmarted India but we certainly outperformed them, especially the way Mitchell [Johnson] and Brett [Lee] bowled with the new ball. We assessed our last performance [in Chandigarh] and even when we lost I didn't think we did that much wrong," said Ponting. "We tightened up on a lot of areas that we felt we needed to. I always say that we play better cricket in a tournament or series as the games proceed. We certainly played our best game today. We did everything right with the bowling and fielding and then to chase the target down with only one wicket down on a wicket that was tough to bat on against spin was really good. It's almost as good as any one-day win we've had I think."

When asked what went wrong for India, Dhoni began by popping the question right back at the journalist. "What went wrong? Apart from the toss everything went wrong. We lost early wickets and never came back into the game," said Dhoni. "Then when we bowled we didn't get the breakthroughs. Their batsmen were beaten early on but didn't nick any. We were never really in the game."

The one thing the two captains agreed wholeheartedly on was Sachin Tendulkar's batting in his 400th ODI. While other batsmen scratched around or perished before they had the chance to do so, Tendulkar was in sublime touch, scoring 47 and looked good for a lot more. "Sachin was the only one who was dominating, apart from the ball that got him," said Dhoni. "It was like he was batting on one wicket and the rest of us were struggling on some other wicket." And Ponting did not hold back when talking about Tendulkar's innings. "Sachin looked very good today. For someone like him he struggled a bit in the last game. Today he drove the ball beautifully," he said. "Some of the drives off Brett early on were as good as anything you'd see. He was obviously up for it in his 400 th match."

What went wrong? Apart from the toss everything went wrong

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

While Dhoni refused to use being tired - either mentally or physically - as an excuse for the loss, he conceded that the non-stop cricket was making things difficult. "It's quite tough on the guys. The conditions are difficult, hot and humid here. It's tough on the players but they don't really have an option when playing for the country," he said. "You have to be tough and give your 100%, but when you play four months in a row it does get tough."

Ponting put down his team's overwhelmingly-strong performance to the kind of preparation that went into this game, beginning with the loss in the last one ain Chandigarh. "You end up assessing things a lot more when you lose. It's pretty simple when you win. Quite often you end up talking about the same things when you're winning," he said. "We had a couple of really good meetings yesterday - first a bowling meeting, then a batting meeting and a team meeting. We spoke of our deficiencies - too many extras, not enough wickets with the new ball, losing wickets at crucial times - we didn't do any of those things today.

"You try and prepare as best as you can for every game. On that wicket I thought I was going to be facing some left-arm spin at some stage so I worked on that in the nets yesterday. Overall our preparation for this game was excellent. We knew it was going to be really hot. We had a light session yesterday and worked on our skills."

Ponting also sought to downplay the issue of on-field chatter that has clouded this series. "I don't think we were doing the talking at the start of the series. Some of the banter stemmed from our encounter in the Twenty20 game. Some of that spilled over to the early games here," he said. "The Indians obviously came back feeling very happy about what they achieved at the Twenty20, as they should. There's been way too much made of this. There hasn't been any chit-chat since game two and here after game five, we're still talking about it."

After a performance of this kind, though, there's really not much need for chatter. The ball, bat and gloves spoke more than enough for the Australians.

Anand Vasu is an associate editor on Cricinfo