South Africa v India, 1st Test, Centurion, 5th day December 20, 2010

MS Dhoni worried by inept bowling

MS Dhoni has come down hard on his bowlers after India started yet another tour with a demoralising defeat. "One of the things was we still couldn't get them all out," Dhoni said. "Although we all said the wicket was different to first day, but you have bowled on flatter tracks and you're still expected to get the sides out, so that's an area of concern because to win a Test you have to get 20 wickets."

It was not just the failure to bowl South Africa out that ought to concern India. They conceded 225 runs in one session on the third day, which hastened the declaration from South Africa. The extra time South Africa gained proved to be a big factor in India's fight for a draw. "You're supposed to either take wickets or not let the opposition score at five runs an over in a Test match," Dhoni said. "The conditions are difficult out here, it's not like in India where it's turning and the ball doesn't come on. So you can tie the batsmen down and not let them score at a brisk pace. But over here scoring is quite easy, in the sense once you're set, the ball comes on nicely and you can score on both sides of the wicket. So that's also an area of concern. Even our scoring-rate, despite us losing wickets, was quite good. So that means, the only way out is to take wickets.

"It was difficult because there was not much help from the wicket. Our bowlers are not express quick. They don't generally bowl over 140-plus. They have to be very precise with their line and length. We tried different fields. We tried to work around their bowling aspects, which, more often than not, will work with a set batsman. We tried to contain them but it was not successful for a period of time."

Dhoni was also worried about the over-rates, which could potentially earn him a one-match suspension. "Another area of worry is the over-rate because we were five-and-a-half overs down at one stage," he said. "That's a lot. That's a big worry. We need to step that up. We need to bowl our quota in the time allotted."

Dhoni is looking forward to Zaheer's return, not just for what he does with the ball, but how he leads the attack. "It's not just that when Zaheer plays he always gets wickets," he said when asked if the attack was not even half as effective in Zaheer's absence. "But what is good with him is the amount of experience he has got, the way he comes up with new plans and changes his plans during the course of the game. What we need to see is if he can be there in the next Test, whether we can make something happen on the field."

Dhoni seemed resigned to India's tendency to start Test series poorly. "That's one quality we have," he said. "It's not only in India. Most of the Test series, the first Test has often gone bad, but after that we have come back really well. Again we are back to a start that we are quite used to now, hopefully we will cope with that in the coming two games."

That said, he had a few positives to draw on. "Apart from the first day I think we batted really well," he said. "In the second innings, if you have to achieve 400 or 400-plus score you are under pressure. It may be a flat track, but handling that pressure is very difficult. That [India handled it] is definitely a big positive."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo