India in New Zealand 2013-14

Dhoni sees 'plenty of improvement' since 8-0

Abhishek Purohit in Wellington

February 19, 2014

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'Fantastic the way our bowlers bowled' - Dhoni

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.


MS Dhoni walks back for the lunch break, New Zealand v India, 2nd Test, Wellington, February 14, 2014
MS Dhoni has said there are plenty of positives in the team's performance compared to the South Africa tour © Getty Images
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"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

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Posted by ZenCricketLover on (February 23, 2014, 13:10 GMT)

I like what AsherCA has to say about flat and green track bullies. If overseas teams cannot face our spinners, so also we struggle overseas on green pitches with fast bowlers born and bred in those conditions. However, there is one crucial issue we are missing. India needs to prepare pitches for domestic matches where the pitch supports pace bowlers for the first two days and spinners in the remaining days. This is how our pacers will be prepared to bowl overseas and our openers will have to be patient for the first 20 overs against our pacers. Our domestic quickies complain about how after 20 overs they are ineffective. Jadeja's batting profile looks great in first-class cricket, but he recently played one-day cricket shots in NZ when he could have stuck around in the first test and won the match for India with Dhoni! The initial aggression was helpful, but recurring slog shots don't work in a test match cricket. Dhawan proved that he had to curb his instincts on a fast pitch!

Posted by TheUltimateTruth on (February 23, 2014, 12:24 GMT)

@Alexk400, How can bowling incompetency be blamed on Dhoni? On the rare occasion when bowlers create chances, and the fielder is placed in the right and quite innovative placement (a la Kohli in the last test), they drop key catches. How is this Dhoni's fault? The likes of U.Yadav and V.Aaron have been tried and found to be no better than the ones he actually used. In fact, in the NZ tests, the much maligned Ishant did better than the crowd-favorite, Shami.

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (February 22, 2014, 4:35 GMT)

Ashwin's bowling is harmless, to say the least, outside India. He should be replaced by Parvez Rasool. We desperately need a fast bowling all rounder. Rishi Dhawan should be fast tracked into the Indian ODI team.

Posted by AsherCA on (February 21, 2014, 14:47 GMT)

To everyone labelling Team India as flat-track bullies....The same Aus / NZ / Eng / SA fast bowlers get battered on flat tracks whereas India's allegedly weak quicks keep getting wickets here (quite recently - Mitchell Johnson of Australia was battered black & blue on Indian tracks where Mohd Shami of India got Australian wickets) what does this make their quicks ? Also - their batsmen cannot play even "Weak" Indian bowlers on the allegedly "flat" Indian tracks....What does this make their batsmen ? If Indians are flat-track bullies, I can simply flip your arguments & say your bowlers & batsmen are green-top bullies. Go figure. If like me you also said - the 2 sets of conditions are different, requiring different skill sets - some have the right skills for one set & some others have the right skills for the other condition - I can't argue with you.

Posted by SANATP22 on (February 21, 2014, 10:28 GMT)

Test XI G Gambhir(C) S Dhawan C Pujara V Kohli(VC) R Sharma A Rahane MS Dhoni(WK) H Singh Rishi Dhawan M Shami Z Khan

Posted by joelucky on (February 21, 2014, 2:19 GMT)

@KiwiRocker your beloved Pakistan has one outstanding achievement that India can never trump - losing a test to Zimbabwe. Go figure.

Posted by Des_65 on (February 20, 2014, 21:51 GMT)

What about dropped catches? Catches win matches and although the team is young, why can they not hold on to the catches offered? Also, can India play with 4 pacers on fast foreign pitches instead of relying on any spinner e.g. Irfan instead of a spinner?

Posted by Alexk400 on (February 20, 2014, 17:48 GMT)

TIM TO DUMP DHONI. Yes i want to him out of indian team. I know he is best in indian conditions but he is messing up team now. He is worst captain in overseas. Most captain can win in india but not the way dhoni wins but i really think kohli is overall better captain with strategy and leadership. Little angry sure but better captain. :) . he wears heart on his sleeve. That will allow him best player he can be. DUMP DHONI please. Dhoni can play ODI and T20 not TEST matches.

Posted by Snambidi on (February 20, 2014, 12:30 GMT)

Dhoni is Right. One or two failures can not be the criterion to judge a Captain. May be Dhoni lost a few matches abroad.but as an individual player he did not fail.he played very well. Why India lost the Second Test against NZ?simple answer. MeCullum& his partner played extraordinary cricket. Instead of Congratulating The New Zealand Captain ,don't blame Dhoni. sorav Ganguli& Amarnath started making big hue& cry to terminate Captaincy of Dhonoi One match alone is sufficient to justify Dhoni's capability to play & lead the country.Of course that is the Final of Champion's Trophy which he won for India Single handedly.

If at all any modification to the Team India is required ,it is not changing Dhoni but adding Yuvraaj Singh& Dinesh Karthik to the Team..Suresh Raina is another asset.Failing in a couple of Matches should never be the criterion for selecting Players. It is their technique they employ is of major importance. Dhoni should continue as Captain of all versions until next WC .

Posted by SANATP22 on (February 20, 2014, 12:11 GMT)

No planing & No vision in this side. Team even not selected on performance basics. R Ashwin performance very poring in last two series, its time to bring back Harbhajan or Ojha. Goutam Gambhir must include in elven and made test captain. Rishi Dhawan most give opportunity in place of Bhuneshwar Kumar. Time to give break Dhoni in Asia Cup may be good idea for Team.

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