'Not sure of our fast-bowling choices' - Dhoni
MS Dhoni has called for vast improvement from his fast bowlers after their inability to exert any pressure on New Zealand, with 278 on the board, led to a 0-3 series defeat with a game to go. India's failure to contain the opposition has been a major factor in their run of six successive overseas ODIs without a win, and Dhoni said he had no clarity at the moment on which fast bowlers he could take with him to the 2015 World Cup.
"When it comes to the bowling department, we are still in the same phase wherein we are still looking at who our permanent bowlers are," Dhoni said. "We know the spinners and they look good and we know they are the ones who will carry on until the World Cup provided there are no injuries. Fast bowling, we are still not sure who our choices are and what individuals we are looking forward to.
"Back at home we talk about pace and bounce. We get bowlers who can bowl quick but they end up giving more runs without even bowling at the slog. So we have to find a fair balance.
"We need a fair amount of improvement especially in our bowling department. If the batsman is playing good shots, you accept it but it is important that we bowl according to what the plan is and not go off it. To some extent it was quite a disappointing bowling performance from the fast bowlers. But the positive is the spinners bowled really well."
Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin slowed New Zealand considerably after the first ten overs, giving away just 30 runs in the next ten. But on either side of that period, boundaries flowed off the fast bowlers, nullifying the pressure the spinners had been able to create. Dhoni said the quicks had been unable to stick to what had been planned.
"It was a wicket where you would like the bowlers to hit the back of length mark close to the off-stump area but right from the start we gave away too many boundaries," Dhoni said. "We gave too much width to the batsmen and the balls were quite short, which meant they could freely score off them. So we didn't start off well. Not only that, after the 10th over when we initiated the spinners to come and bowl, they bowled quite well and then when we again asked the fast bowlers to come back and bowl, they gave away the runs freely, which means we weren't able to hang on to the pressure created by the spinners."
Jadeja and Ashwin troubled Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor with turn and bounce during that initial ten-over period. A wicket at that point could have meant a different game, but Dhoni took both spinners off after five overs each. He did not have faith in his fast bowlers after seeing their opening spells and decided to hold back his spinners for the latter stage of the chase, by when he expected the asking-rate would have climbed.
"I saw the first ten overs how the fast bowlers bowled. I wasn't sure they would be able to keep the pressure on. So I personally thought that it was important to keep the spinners, especially Jadeja, and use them later to some extent when they [New Zealand] had to go for the big shots. But the way the fast bowlers bowled in the middle overs, it meant that they never really had to play those big shots. That was a crucial phase where, with the open field, we should not have given away too many runs. But we were giving a boundary every over and we were not able to build any pressure."
Dhoni said he was happy with the talent pool of fast bowlers within the side but stressed that the bowlers needed to learn how to improvise according to the situation.
"When it comes to the talent part, we definitely have bowlers who can bowl well," Dhoni said. "But at the same time they will have to start using their brains more and improvise themselves what needs to be done. This is one area where we lack when it comes to the fast-bowling department. But if you just see the talent aspect definitely we have got bowlers who can do well.
"Shami is someone who has been quite consistent apart from this series. Bhuvi has been off this series but he has been good overall. If you look at the whole pool of bowlers, we can keep working on them, but at the end of the day they need to push themselves because with rule changes it is going to be quite tough. But it hasn't been rule changes in this series, it has been bad bowling. We have to keep it tight, but we have a pool of bowlers when it comes to talent."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo