A poor start from the batsmen and the failure to get early wickets by the bowlers cost India the second ODI, MS Dhoni, their captain, has said. Dhoni scored a century after the early loss of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, taking India to 301, but Sri Lanka, boosted by a second successive ton from Tillakaratne Dilshan, sealed a three-wicket win in the final over.
"We did not get a good start. We got some partnerships going but also lost wickets regularly," Dhoni said after the game. We capitalised on the Powerplay to get to a total, which I thought was par for the course. But in these conditions you need to get early wickets. We did not get those.
"If we had got wickets with the new ball things would have been different. Though we got three-four wickets in a clutch it was too late to make a difference."
Dhoni admitted poor fielding was also a factor in India's failure to defend a competitive score. "This team is the best in batting and we have the best bowlers, but we are not the best fielding side in the world," he said. "We need to score 20 more runs to make up for the fielding lapses."
There were several misfields and fumbles when India were fielding, and one that virtually sealed a Sri Lankan victory came in the penultimate over. Zaheer Khan, fielding at mid-on, allowed a drive from Angelo Mathews go through his legs to the boundary to bring the equation down to four runs off eight balls.
India have been relying on the services of former Australia fielding coach Mike Young, who is a part of the support-staff in his capacity as a consultant. But Dhoni said results could not be expected overnight. "You have to see the individuals also and then you have to decide on how much you can upgrade yourself. It's not that if I am fielding or you are fielding and all of a sudden there comes the coach and you become Jonty Rhodes," he said. "It's like a bowler. A spinner can't bowl fast bowling. The same way fielding is something that comes naturally. Somebody is a good fielder or he's not."
However, Dhoni praised India's middle-order batsmen, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli, who hit half-centuries and played key roles in India's recovery. "Virat batted very well. When he came in there was a lot of pressure. The spinners were bowling well and the fast bowlers were using the bouncers. He is also an excellent fielder either inside or outside the circle. It's exciting to see characters like him," he said. "Raina is a batsman who, after he is well set, goes for the big shots, sixes and fours. That's the hallmark of his batting."
Dhoni has had a successful 2009 with the bat, scoring two centuries and nine fifties and currently heads the run-scoring charts along with Ricky Ponting. "If we have to score more runs I promote myself. I try to be there till the end so that in the slog overs we can score more freely when one set batsman is there. By batting at different slots I have learnt what kind of pressure every individual has," he said.
Sri Lanka's response was led by Dilshan's typically attacking 123 and Dhoni lauded his consistency. "He's a very aggressive batsman and has been very consistent. On his day he can be dangerous. He has got all the shots, the cut, the pull or the shot over the bowler's head."
Dilshan has scored four out of his five centuries while opening the batting, and he acknowledged that promotion up the order had brought about a transformation in his batting. "Opening has certainly helped me," he said. "I have changed my mindset and started converting my 30s and 40s into big scores."
An unbeaten 37 from Mathews took Sri Lanka past the finish line after India had struck back with quick wickets. "We had to take our chances and Angelo Mathews (37 not out) made sure we did not go down," he said. Mathews appeared to pull his thigh muscle during his innings and had to rely on a runner. Sri Lanka's team manager Brendon Kuruppu said the extent of damage was not known as yet. "We don't know exactly what has happened to him. We have to wait for 24 hours before deciding the course of action."