Dhoni backs 'superb' Gambhir for more
Gautam Gambhir's good recent form and the fact that he hadn't been persisted with recently helped him win a spot ahead of his Delhi team-mate Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni revealed at the end of the game.
Dhoni had said on Sunday that the duo were competing for one berth and justified his decision to go with Gambhir, who repaid the faith with a valuable 44. "He has done consistently well at this level," Dhoni said. "He has been unfortunate in the past as some others have been given preference over him. [His longest run] in the team was only six matches in a row and he was Man of the Match in quite a few games."
Dhoni also suggested that Gambhir would be persisted with for a few more games. "I wanted to give him a few more matches before resting him and giving opportunities to others. And the way he played today he deserves his place in the side. He batted quite superbly."
It means Sehwag, who replaced Rahul Dravid in the squad, might have to wait a while before his comeback. There was some speculation about Sehwag missing the game in the wake of his father's death but Dhoni had said he was in "good nick and hitting the ball well".
Dhoni's promotion to No. 4, ahead of Yuvraj Singh, was also not in keeping with the script. He's batted in that position on just eight earlier occasions, the last being the Chandigarh game against Australia. He entered at a tricky 96 for 2 and left after an assured half-century, with only 15 needed for victory. "I am flexible about it," Dhoni said when asked if it was a sign of things to come. "I've said in the past that I need someone to fit in my place at No. 6 or 7. Today we needed a left and right-hand combination. Afridi was bowling offbreaks to left-handers, and legbreaks to the right-handers. That encouraged me to promote myself."
Dhoni wanted his side to look at each game as a one-match series, maintaining the same intensity throughout. "Starting the series with a win will help the team. It helps the team's confidence, and the momentum goes your way. But we have to keep things right in the coming matches as well. It is not just about doing things right in one match. We have to do it throughout the series."
While Dhoni said 280 would have been a "winning score" his counterpart, Shoaib Malik, didn't think Pakistan were a few runs short. "I think 230-240 was a good target. It was defendable. The difference was that we dropped catches. If we had taken them, the result would have been totally different. Fielding let us down."
He was talking about the two chances that Gambhir offered, off successive Shoaib Akhtar deliveries when he was on 7 and 11. Both were identical chances with the ball deflecting off the edge and flying between the wicketkeeper and Younis Khan at first slip. Instead of targeting his bowlers, Malik stressed on the fielding concerns instead. "We gauged the pitch and picked our best bowling attack. A fit Shoaib is an asset. He is our best option and is currently bowling quick and running in quick. I can't blame my spinners also. Especially when our fielding didn't back it up."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo