South Africa v India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 5th day January 6, 2011

Dhoni upbeat despite missed opportunity


Unless the new FTP throws up another tour to South Africa very soon, or India discover three middle-order batsmen as good as Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, this tour could well be their best chance to win a series in South Africa for the foreseeable future. It is a chance they missed out on after having fought hard to come back in Durban, and, more importantly, having attained a dominant position in Cape Town. Yet MS Dhoni, while conceding this was a really good chance of registering that elusive series win, said he wasn't bitterly disappointed.

"We were in a position where we could have done something really special," Dhoni said. "It could have been the first day of the first Test or yesterday where if we had got one more wicket quickly, it would have looked really different. There might have been a stiff target to chase, but we would have fancied our chances. It wouldn't have been really boring. Everyone tries to give his best, but at times things like these happen."

Dhoni said if the side had applied itself a little better in Centurion, where they disintegrated on a damp pitch, the series would have looked completely different. "We were always confident about doing well. What was important was to get outplayed rather than play bad cricket as a team. Bad start; could have applied ourselves better and got 50-60 more. But apart from that, we said to ourselves we should take care of the small things. That's what we did as a team. It is a very special series; we saw plenty of good performances from individuals in both the batting and bowling departments."

About letting the game slip away on the fourth day, Dhoni said he was disappointed on two counts: the partnership between Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher, and then the extra runs that the tail added. "We were in a position where we could have been chasing 260-270 if we had got that extra wicket, but were not able to. Kallis batted really well with Boucher, and then [Dale] Steyn also scored runs, which meant we had to chase more than 300, which is very difficult."

The positive, he said, was the mental strength the side showed when it was down and written off. "We can still come back if we are 0-1 down in the series. The catching was brilliant throughout ... The fielding standard was quite good. But plenty to improve. Trying to improve in every game as a team."

Dhoni was happy with the fast bowling, but said they still could improve with the old ball when reverse-swing is not available. "Most of our fast bowlers are skill-oriented, rely on swing. It's not always with pace that we get batsmen out. They did a good job with the new ball, but we need to slightly improve after 40 overs especially with Kookaburra because there is no reverse. Interesting learning experience for our young bowlers. Overall, their performance was good."

This could also be India's last Test with Gary Kirsten as their coach, and Dhoni made his appreciation for the former South Africa opener very clear. "I wanted to Gary to do this press conference, but it seems to have slipped out of his mind. He has gone back home. He is getting old.

"We have had some fantastic times with him. He was one guy who didn't know much about Indian cricket as far as the dressing room is concerned. Most of the players have that aura. It is very difficult to come with a fixed mind. He came in with no plans; he came to see what individuals do and then made a plan, which worked for us. We were very free under him. Most of the credit should go to him also. Especially when being an India coach, all the media glare is on you.

"One of the great things that happened to Indian cricket. I don't know if this is his last Test as India coach but every member loves him and acknowledges and respects the amount of time and devotion that he has given Indian cricket."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SunAndSea on January 8, 2011, 20:51 GMT

    India were more competitive than on previous tours, but it's disappointing that they did not try to chase down the total on the final day of the final test. They could have made history - a series win was within their grasp. But that much-vaunted batting line-up showed a startling lack of ambition. India are the number 1 team in the world, but they don't yet have a winning mentality.

  • The_Professor on January 8, 2011, 16:29 GMT

    Absolutely correct mrgupta (on January 06 2011, 21:05 PM GMT) - the majority (not sure if it was actually 99%) predicted India to lose. The_Professor (I) was amongst the very few that predicted SA WOULD CHOKE! India were very unlucky not to win the series altogether. In the 1st test, without a warm-up match (thanks BCCI) and without Zak, India was unlucky to lose the toss that decided the match. In the final test only one wicket (Kallis-Boucher) saved SA from defeat!! India is definitely a more 'complete side' (although there is a lot of room for improvement) than SA. India WILL WIN their next series in SA!

  • StJohn on January 8, 2011, 9:36 GMT

    166-3 off 82 overs with a difficult, but worth trying for, 340 to win the series outright? I don't know what happened, but India all too frequently seem to lack the courage we'd hope for and expect from the No.1 Test side. I just don't understand why they didn't go for it a bit more. A rather anti-climactic, disappointing and safety-first end to an otherwise great series between two great teams. I think both SA and India need to be less cautious if they're to have any chance at domination, as opposed to being just the current leaders of a tightly grouped pack.

  • dummy4fb on January 8, 2011, 6:21 GMT

    INDIA is No. 1 according to the stats that too based on their stable no one can argue with who is no. 1 in test INDIA need to do is dominance on the points....if they do one will....hmmmm

  • Silverbails on January 7, 2011, 19:48 GMT

    Poor captaincy by Dhoni on the SA 3rd innings definitely cost India their first deries win over the SA's!! Best chance now gone - will they ever win a series in SA? And, the "Holy Grail" for all Indians is still winning on Australian soil. Who know if and when that will be achieved? India need more positive captaincy. Ishant should be dropped, until he regains his form in Ranji trophy.

  • dummy4fb on January 7, 2011, 18:46 GMT

    @A.Aafkar, its because of the number of 100's and 5 fors that you mentioned that India is a better team. They dont rely on a couple of individuals like SA did this series. But yes, SA do deserve the no. 2 spot. Had they lost this, they'd ve gone down to no 3 and England at no 2 which is just not right

  • FMatt on January 7, 2011, 18:29 GMT

    @A.Afker et. al, India is going to play in England later this year, let's wait to make the claim that England is No. 1 until then :-). In case you forget, Aussie team is the weakest they have ever been in the last 20 years. India beat Aus 2-0 in a two test series in India.

    @Seether1: So much is being made of Imran Tahir who is yet to play a Test. Sad if SA has to get a spinner from Pakistan to become No. 1.

    "Eng will beat Ind in 3 days" claims: Again, let's wait and see. Do remember one thing: England is good at reverse swing, well, so is India. In fact, one of the advantages that SA had playing at home with the Kookaburra ball is that it doesn't reverse swing much. With all that SA had going for them (two toss wins, Zak injured the 1st test, home conditions), the series still ended up in a 1-1 tie. So India has more than proven their ability to play overseas for now. England and Australia series will tell us more. For now, Congratulations, TEAM INDIA.

  • ArdentCritic on January 7, 2011, 18:10 GMT

    Like the Captain even care? I guess it is not in the Indians Bones. It was a best possible chance to win the series and like always they let it slip away by not attacking the SA batsmen on the 4th Day. What a pity. As a fan, somebody in BCCI answer me - How long do I have to put up with Dravid sub par (under 20 average) score. It is been like this for him for ever (atleast since 2007 for sure). What a pity!

  • SnowSnake on January 7, 2011, 16:38 GMT

    Congratulations India for good performance. Now that series is over, I can say that SA as a team disappointed me due to their arrogance. They were #2, but right from the beginning they were acting as if they deserve to be #1. India, despite being #1 for a year did not show any such arrogance and were humble in their approach. It is difficult for me to support SA or any other arrogant team for that matter-- especially when they cannot back their words with performance. I will say one thing in support for SA however, which is that a few umpiring decisions went against them. Although India also had a few go against them, but SA got more of these bad decisions. In either case, SA played well and challanged India. India needs to be challanged as any other #1 team should be. Now let the fun of T20 and ODI begin.

  • cricketeria on January 7, 2011, 15:01 GMT

    Full marks to India for drawing the series. I was expecting them to lose 2-0. They bowled well and tendulkar gambhir vvs played very well. But I was right about one thing. Sehwag is not a complete batsman. He was totally defeated in SA and has to raise his game beyond flat track bullying in the sub-continent. India deserve no.1 right now but England have a fair chance of becoming no.1 too. Eng are an extremely well-drilled unit right now and can beat India, esp. in England. Indian batsmen struggled against good swing bowling of Steyn and they'll need to get better or they'll suffer the same way against Anderson Broad etc.

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