Dhoni sees 'plenty of improvement' since 8-0
Following the drawn second Test in Wellington, India have now failed to win even one of their past 14 away Tests going back to June 2011. They endured eight straight defeats in England and Australia in 2011-12 but this current side of young batsmen halted that streak with a thrilling draw against South Africa in Johannesburg in December last year. They then lost in Durban and Auckland before failing to convert a strong position in Wellington. MS Dhoni felt his team was continually getting better and would hopefully reach a point where they would start generating victories away from home.
"I am someone who speaks more about the process rather than thinking just about the results," Dhoni said. "We played after a long break outside the subcontinent. If you compare those two series [0-8] with the last few we have played, there is plenty of improvement. That's what it's all about. You want to keep improving to a stage where you start converting those good situations into better starts and start capitalising on it. So far you may say we haven't capitalised on the kind of starts when it came to our batting department, but still there is plenty of improvement. I will take that and move on to the next series."
India did not win a single game out of the 11 completed matches in South Africa and New Zealand. Dhoni said India kept getting ahead in New Zealand but could not make that advantage count with victories on the board. However, he felt there are still plenty of encouraging signs from this tour, even compared to South Africa.
"The ODIs were disappointing to some extent, especially the New Zealand part. South Africa, you can always say we didn't get enough time to prepare ourselves and in a three-match series, it is difficult to come back. But [in] New Zealand there were instances where we could have capitalised on the kind of starts we got or if we had a good partnership in the middle, but we failed to do that.
"We saw a glimpse of that in the Test match also. In the last Test match also, in the second innings, we bowled fantastically well to come back into the series. Then when we were batting, I felt we had a good partnership going but we lost wickets at the wrong time and that put the pressure back on ourselves. That's one part where we will have to improve.
"What's important is to see whether we have improved and changed the way we have played our cricket. If we compare to it to the South Africa series, there are plenty of positives."
India had embarked on the tour of South Africa with an inexperienced top six, three of whom were on their first overseas Test trip. Dhoni said he had wanted them to develop as cricketers on the twin tours and while most of them had played at least one big innings, the captain said he would like to see them become more consistent.
"Often it's not about how much runs you have scored," Dhoni said. "It's often about what kind of cricket you are playing. You may get a good ball and you may get out. But at times, back home what happens is if you score a fifty, you are in form and batting well. But that's not the reality. A batsman who is batting well may score 30 runs and may get out to a very good delivery. As a batting unit, we have done well and we have shown improvement.
"But what's important is to be more consistent. All batsmen have got one good innings in the last four Tests. If we can improve that and make it maybe two or three, then the situation of the team really improves. That's one area where we will have to improve, and definitely that seems like something where we will definitely improve in the future."
One positive from the New Zealand tour was that Shikhar Dhawan showed he could score big at the top of the order in Tests outside India, with 115 in Auckland and 98 in Wellington. While his partner M Vijay could not get going, Dhoni was pleased with the "vast" progress of his openers in difficult conditions.
"It will always be tough, the reason being it is not easy especially with the Kookaburra ball. It does a lot initially even if the wickets are flat. It is always difficult for the openers and that is where experience to some extent really counts. You only get experience as you play more and more cricket. Considering their frame of mind how it was in South Africa, I think slowly there has been vast improvement, how they are preparing themselves for the games.
"Actually, Vijay in the nets has been batting really well. He has not been able to convert or take that into the match but he is looking really good. Shikhar again I think he batted well. He got big runs. It is really important he maintains himself in the same way, figures out how he needs to plan to be successful outside the subcontinent and what will be important is to back yourself to play the kind of cricket you really play."
Also comforting Dhoni was the intensity shown in New Zealand by the leader of his bowling attack, Zaheer Khan. The swing bowler had appeared spent in South Africa after sending down more than 60 overs in Johannesburg, but he was sharp through the 67 overs he had to bowl in Wellington, which included figures of 51-13-170-5 in the second innings. Dhoni said it was good to see Zaheer taking wickets, and added that is what the team would need from him regularly, in addition to the mentoring role he performs.
"If I compare Zak from the first Test he played in South Africa to this Test match, there is leaps and bounds of improvement. That's what I had a chat with him also. When you are playing with three fast bowlers, the role of every fast bowler becomes important. It's good to see him get wickets. Hopefully, what will happen is with more and more bowling, he will get much better. Now he will play cricket, you have the domestic circuit followed by the IPL. I think it will be good exposure for him. I think in the last innings over here, he bowled really well and that's where he will have to be throughout."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo