'Have to adapt to facing short balls' - Dhoni
MS Dhoni, the India captain, has said that the young batsmen are learning to adapt to the different conditions and trying to improve their art of dealing with short deliveries and extra bounce. India won the first Test but not without some batting hiccups. M Vijay didn't do well and in the middle order, the likes of Virat Kohli were tested by the bouncers.
"A lot has been spoken about the short stuff and everything," Dhoni said. "But if you want to do well at the international level, you have to consistently face it. And you have to adapt yourself to the conditions. You might not be the best player of fast bowling or short-pitched deliveries but you have to negotiate it. If you are not getting out to the short delivery then it is fair enough. It doesn't really matter whether you look elegant or not. It's all about scoring runs.
"That's where I think that if you are enjoying your cricket then it helps you to perform better and you get into positions where you can negotiate the bounce well. That is one area where the youngsters are trying to improve. I think because when the other countries when they come to India, they see turn and bounce for the spinners and most of them struggle."
Vijay, who was suffering from a finger injury sustained during the pre-match training session in the nets, fell cheaply in both innings. Abhinav Mukund, the debutant opener, was better, and looked good in the second innings, but he failed to convert starts of 11 and 25. Asked a direct question about the performance of Vijay, Dhoni chose instead to answer it in a holistic way.
"I think it's important to have a pool of openers," he said. "Because opening is one slot that you know, you may be a very good opener but at international level till you are tested, it's very difficult to say by playing domestic cricket you can really adapt to the Test conditions. You have different kinds of bowlers and it is very different. So it's very important to have a pool of openers and they should be given games.
"I feel this is one area where the India A tours are very important because the youngsters who get exposure to international conditions and the upcoming players of different teams who might play for their respective countries. It's important to have them. Abhinav Mukund also looked positive in this game, which means we have quite a pool of openers where we can give them a fair amount of matches whenever we have chance and look to groom them, so that in the future, we can have a settled pair of openers. Now we have, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir doing a great job for us."
Those two were the slightly tougher questions about the possible problems that ail India. The rest of the conference revolved around the Test victory. Dhoni was happy that though India were without several important players for this series the team took responsibility and performed.
"We missed quite a few key players in this Test match, which meant somebody had to take the responsibility and I'm glad the team took up the responsibility for the way we performed. At one stage, we were 85 for 6 in the first innings but you know again the lower order contribution was there. Suresh Raina batted really well with Harbhajan Singh and the rest of the tail contributed.
"I think we have done really well over the last two years or so with the lower-order contribution and the same time, part-timers getting wickets when it's needed. I think this was a perfect example. We thought maybe we'll end up getting 150 or 200-odd runs but we ended up getting some more runs because of which we were able to get few more runs as lead and we ended up getting over 250 runs."
In the second innings, Rahul Dravid guided India out of trouble and helped set up a target of 326. "Rahul as you know is an exceptional batsman. Very patient. He got 100 in 250 balls, which means you have to be very patient and push the bowlers to bowl in your areas and to your strengths. And I think that's what he did. He was patient for a long time and waited for the bowlers to bowl in his areas. That has been the pick of his innings. Not only in this one, but whatever innings he plays you know he just waits for the bowlers to pitch it in his areas. I think he was brilliant as usual."
Dhoni also had words of praise for Praveen Kumar, who picked six wickets in the match, and was the pick of the Indian bowlers. "Praveen as we all know is a skilful bowler," Dhoni said. "He can swing the ball both ways and he is not someone who is up with the pace, he doesn't bowl 140-plus but he can definitely swing the ball and put the ball in the right areas, which means that he can confuse the batsmen as to play it or to leave it … It was not a wicket which was swinging a lot or seaming lot. Of course you know Praveen can swing the ball in any sort of conditions. He was brilliant. He bowled in the right areas. And that was the main reason why he got wickets in both the innings."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo