Dhoni lauds bowlers' will
Twice in four Tests now, Inda have failed to convert a strong position into victory. At the Wanderers, they even came close to losing after setting South Africa a target of 458. At Basin Reserve, they had New Zealand five down and still needing 152 to make the visitors bat again, but were unable to dislodge triple-centurion Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling, who went on to build a match-saving 352-run partnership.
MS Dhoni felt India had tried everything they could, and lauded the efforts of his quicks, emphasizing that the opposition had just been too good.
"We bowled for two-and-a-half days. We tried our best in all fielding positions," Dhoni said. "Right from catching slips to catching covers to deep square leg to deep point and bowling on the pads to bowling outside off. We tried three new balls to get them out. At times it works, at times it does not work. After that, you have to appreciate that at times, the opposition can also bat well. We don't always have to put pressure on our bowlers and batters saying we batted badly or we bowled badly.
"I think as a cricket fan, he (McCullum) batted really well. And he was given good company by Watling and they kept playing. They played a lot of deliveries. Playing close to 500-odd deliveries is itself very tough, forget the amount of runs he has scored. I think it was one of the good innings we were able to see."
McCullum and Watling consumed 926 deliveries between them. India had sent down 136 overs in the second innings in Johannesburg, while they ended up bowling 210 in the second innings in Wellington. Dhoni had appreciated his toiling fast bowlers in South Africa as well, and he was pleased again with the intensity they had shown at the Basin.
"I think it was fantastic to see the way our bowlers bowled. Specially the fact that when they took the second and third new ball, still they were willing to put in a lot of effort. You don't get to see sides playing with three fast bowlers and one spinner and putting the kind of effort that our side did. Overall, we will accept that we were not able to get two batsmen out. They batted really well, we will give credit to them but at the same time, what really needs to be appreciated is the will and the way our fast bowlers tried to get the opposition out on a really flat wicket.
As I said, to maintain pressure with 3-1 combination becomes difficult. That was one area where our fast bowlers did really well. They were able to hit consistent line and length throughout. We bowled close to 200-odd overs and still they were able to hit the same spot with good intensity which itself means a lot."
Dhoni said it was difficult to pinpoint why India were falling short after getting ahead in games. "We are trying. It is not like making food where you say, okay, salt is missing, that is why it is not good. Where we are lacking, that is a difficult one to answer. In the last two series, we have not been able to capitalise when we were in similar situation. I think it is good we were in a situation like that and slowly we will be able to capitalise also."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo