'Don't judge bench strength on one game' - Kirsten
After a new-look India were convincingly beaten by South Africa in Ahmedabad, coach Gary Kirsten has said the depth of talent in his side shouldn't be gauged based on just one performance. India fielded two debutants, opener M Vijay and fast bowler Abhimanyu Mithun, and had only two players with more than 50 one-dayers under their belt in the dead rubber.
"It's difficult to judge the bench strength by one game," Kirsten said after the 90-run defeat. "I see it as an opportunity for the younger players but you cannot judge them by one performance."
With a core of experienced team members performing consistently, Kirsten said the reserve players were not getting enough chances at the international level. "We want to win every series and this does not give opportunities for the younger players to get the exposure. But this was a good learning experience for them."
The home side were without their entire first-choice bowling line-up of Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar and Harbhajan Singh, and the inexperienced bowling unit, led by Sreesanth, was taken for 365 runs by South Africa.
Captain MS Dhoni said India missed the variations of Zaheer and Nehra. "The three fast bowlers that we played, their strength was not change of pace," he said. "If we had somebody like Ashish Nehra or Zaheer, things would have been different."
India had a particularly tough time while bowling at the death, with the pair of Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers blasting 100 runs in the final seven overs. "With the kind of the start they got it would have been difficult to restrict them to 300," Dhoni said, "but I think 340 would have been competitive and we could have looked to get it."
Despite the defeat in the final ODI, Dhoni was happy with India's performance over the season, during which they beat Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Test series, before pulling off a memorable win in Kolkata earlier this month to draw the Tests with South Africa and retain their No. 1 ranking. He identified the fielding as one department that needed plenty of improvement.
"We have done well over the season, there have been injuries, we have missed key players, if you look at everything, we have done really well," he said. "Our bowling has improved in bits and pieces, we have done well. Youngsters are doing well. May be in one year we will also put up the best fielding side in the world."