South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 5th day December 30, 2013

Mixed feelings for Dhoni after South Africa Tests


'We've got fantastic ingredients' - Dhoni

This 1-0 series defeat for India has in many ways exceeded the expectations off this young and inexperienced team, but MS Dhoni knows they had put themselves in positions to do much better. At the Wanderers they had almost batted South Africa out of the game, but then witnessed a miraculous comeback that nearly left them beaten. At Kingsmead, India were 198 for 1 on a flat pitch but still ended up losing a Test that was shortened by rain and bad light.

Dhoni didn't reveal what his expectations from this tour were when asked to rate his side's performance against what he wanted from the trip. "We performed really well," Dhoni said. "There were a couple of sessions where we played badly and that had an impact on both the Test matches. Even in the last Test, we were in position of bother by stumps on last day. In this Test match also we started off well. Just one session where we were off target. As the players play more Tests and get more experience, they will make sure that it's important to capitalise when the bowlers are tired. That's when you get your free Test runs. So important to capitalise."

When pushed about whether he felt his side had done better than expected, all Dhoni said was: "Fantastic performance, [but] yes, we could have done better."

The two bad sessions that Dhoni mentioned were the middle session of the final day in Johannesburg when they couldn't separate Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, and the first session of the final day in Durban when they lost five wickets. There was also a contentious spell of play on day four when India didn't take the new ball in order to slow down South Africa's scoring. Rahul Dravid, among others, felt India should have shown more intent and gone for the wickets to slow the pace down naturally. Dhoni's explanation for playing the waiting game with the softer ball that wouldn't travel off the bat hinted at the fast bowlers' shortcomings.

"What will we do with the new ball?" Dhoni asked. "Can't swing it. Who will bowl the 25 overs to get it to reverse? [Ravindra] Jadeja won't be effective because it's hard and new, so you have to see what your strength is and take a decision. No point. Yes it [the match] started on the 26th, it's Christmas time, but I am not Santa to let them score freely, and say, 'We won't bat for four sessions, we are ready to bat for six sessions.' It's about strategy and what works for you."

The India bowlers had bowled a lot in Johannesburg, and were back playing in the hot and humid Durban three days later. The energy was clearly down. Possibly Dhoni worried about those 25 overs with lower intensity, and wondered who would be fresh to bowl if it started reversing after those 25 overs. He also pointed out another shortcoming in the attack.

When asked about where this young team was headed, Dhoni said: "Just need to talk about the last two Tests. Plenty of positives, batting department is looking good, ingredients are good. Bowling department, we still need to work on how to bowl on dry surfaces outside the subcontinent and where you need to bend your back and hit the surface hard. That is one area where we need to slightly improve."

Dhoni also said that India needed to convert moments of ascendancy into results, because Tests can be a lost in a session. This is the third time India went into the final Test in South Africa with a chance to win the series, but their third innings let them down. "If you have an upper hand, [you must] make sure you capitalise on that," Dhoni said. "On certain occasions, I felt that we were not able to capitalise on the upper hand. So these are a few areas we need to work on and keep improving."

It was mixed feelings for Dhoni after the series. He knew his side had not been given a chance, but he also knew they had put themselves in positions to win the series. Dhoni was hopeful about the future based on what he saw in South Africa. "The more Test matches that you play, you get more experience," Dhoni said. "This side, overall you talk about making some recipe, all the ingredients are there. This series we didn't cook the food well. But apart from that we have got fantastic ingredients. Just have to make sure we are cooking the right way. Overall, 15-17 member squad is looked good; batting looked good, bowlers worked hard. When something was on offer, in Johannesburg, they were able to get the opposition out. Good exposure for most of the batsmen and bowlers who were touring for the first time."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • agile on January 2, 2014, 9:42 GMT

    Although the result had gone into South Africa's favor and many congrats to them..but I think the series was a hard fought one and thoroughly entertaining. A close analysis will reveal that India were in the driving seat as much as SA in terms of number of sessions throughout the series... and I don't think ANY other team other than Australia or India can do that in SA with their current lineup. And DHONI is ABSOLUTELY right in this regard when he said we have more positives than negatives.... If the scoreline is slightly in SA's favor is coz they are a bit more lucky in just 1 session of last test!

  • Michael Ponnudurai on January 2, 2014, 5:36 GMT

    India did well for 3.5 days of the first Test and 1 day of the second and final Test. Compared to that SA did well for 1.5 days of the 1st Test and bulldozed india for 4 days of the Final Test. India can take positives from the batting of Kohli and Pujara from the 1st Test. Nothing more. SA have taken a win for themselves. On a difficult 4th afternoon and 5th whole day pitch in first Test SA battled extremely well to come close to a win playing out their 4th innings. India failed to do so in the second Test batting on a virtually 4th day pitch (considering so much of loss of play time during the Test) batting out only the thrid innings of the Test. That is how big the difference is between India and SA. It is cheap for Dhoni to refer to decisions. If you do not want DRS, take it up your chin and face it. India is the only team not using DRS. All other series where India is not playing, are using DRS.

  • kabelo on January 1, 2014, 14:14 GMT

    at the end of the day, India lost and India lost heavily...huge margin losses twice in ODIs and 10 wkt loss in tests is just the same as an innings loss. doing well is not winning..bottom line..and coming close to winning is not winning...ALMOST DOESN'T COUNT!! 20 years later when a young cricketer looks at the stats of this series and see lose against India...a good thin to take out of this huge loss is that all teams win thier next series or do well after playing SA..eng did well in India, NZ beat eng, pak now beating SL.if you have never been tested at the highest level by the best team in the world, you learn a great deal and gain massive confidence because you won't face a better bowling or batting attack..

  • RAJARAMAN on January 1, 2014, 9:10 GMT

    What is so shameful about MSD? So, if we don't win any game abroad, you change the captian? Ridiculous! Spare a thought for a player who is motivated enough to guide and mould a young team. To win any test abroad, all departments need to combine very well. Of course MSD has sometimes failed in crucial times with the bat. But to expect him to pull the team out single handedly everytime is too much.

  • Ravi on December 31, 2013, 18:55 GMT

    Since the great Kapil Dev, we have never had a new ball bowler who could rattle the opposition with a few quick wickets and put pressure. We have good fast bowlers but they are far from being another Kapil Dev.

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2013, 18:42 GMT

    @BCCI Thinking of dropping any player who not performed in RSA? If then start with M.S.Dhoni.

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2013, 17:22 GMT

    India had a great chance to put pressure on SA on Day-1 after being 181/1 & had an opportunity to dictate the terms in the match.

    But on Day-2 it was a familiar story of the collapse of the Indian top order on a relatively easy batting conditions. The 2nd innings batting performance was even worse with some bad shots played by some players & crucial one was Dhawan's wicket before close of 4th Day's play & the most imp. 2 wickets in the final day morning. But, what was disappointing was lack of application from some batsmen.

    But, I feel the problem in Indian team is a strike bowler who if given a ball can take 2-3 crucial wickets. We are lacking the same for some years now. This is preventing us from putting pressure on opposition teams especially in overseas matches. We need to find someone a fast bowler who is effective, consistent & reliable. Due to this drawback we cannot win consistently in overseas matches & opponents fancy scoring > 300 runs in ODI & > 450 runs in Testv/s us.

  • Murali on December 31, 2013, 17:05 GMT

    I am amazed at India's attitude. Isn't it the time for some serious introspection? India clearly lacks good quality pace bowlers, yet it's not doing anything to address this issue. Why can't BCCI with it's deep pockets set up pace bowling training facilities to nurture young talent? Also it should prepare bouncy pitches for domestic matches to promote budding fast bowlers. I am not saying don't prepare turning wickets at all, but there should be balance. After all you can't expect a different result by doing the same thing again and again!.

  • Rajkumar on December 31, 2013, 12:43 GMT

    There may be 'mixed' reactions about India's performance but no confusion about Dhoni--He shouldnt be in the test squad.He just cant be a part of the lower middle order.One way to make up for lack of incisive bowling is by batting deep(like we do in ODIs)and Dhoni just doesnt fit in the scheme of things.His glovework is average at best and he needs to be replaced by DK or any otehr doemstic keeper with good credentials(not Baba for heavens sake.)This young Indian side should be compared to the Smith's SA side which came to India in 2005-05.did any one know about the team members even after the series.Give the lads some time and they have shown plenty of plenty of promise.Chak De for bowling we knew where we were and this is nothing 'disappointing'.Bowling SA out for 241 is something and how many bowling XIs can do this.(Not england for sure)

  • Kiran on December 31, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    The problem with indian test team is Dhoni himself. He seems to get lost if the opposition plays more than 3 session. it happened in the away tests in australia and england and now it repeated itself in SA as well. and I am sure it would repeat in new zealand as well. as he mentioned during the test series in australia that he would retire from tests by end of 2013, he should do it.