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May 7, 2010
MS Dhoni has defended his top order after they once again fell apart in the face of a hostile short-pitched attack. The pace of Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson proved too much for India as they slumped to 50 for 7 in their pursuit of a daunting 185, and it was a familiar mode of dismissal that brought their downfall.
Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina, the latter coming off the back of his hundred against South Africa, were unsettled by the short ball and fell to limp pulls. It was only Rohit Sharma, who hit out towards the end, that looked comfortable against the sustained pace that Australia were able to throw at them.
If India have realistic ambitions of winning this tournament they are going to have to sharpen up their reflexes, for after this performance they will have plenty more deliveries heading for the ribcage with another Super Eight match and the final to be held in Barbados. The hole left by Virender Sehwag's absence has not been adequately filled.
"You try to fight fire with fire and it doesn't always work and this was an example of that," Dhoni said. "If somebody bowls 150kph short stuff then you have to be really good at pulling which isn't our natural strength. Most players from India are very good at cutting the ball, but only a few are good pullers against the new ball.
"Maybe we could have played through the first few overs because we saw as the ball got a bit older it didn't come on as quickly," he added. "But you have to go for runs and it's easy after the game to say this is what should have been done. When you are chasing 180-odd runs the first five or six overs are very important otherwise the rate goes above 10 an over."
Dhoni, and each India captain before him, has had to answer questions on his side's ability to face short-pitched bowling but the concern will be that this wasn't a lightning fast surface, just one that offered encouragement to a well-directed attack. At last year's World Twenty20 in England, India succumbed in similar fashion with Super Eight defeats against West Indies and the hosts when they were bombed out on a lively Lord's surface.
"It's the same stuff that Indians have been facing for the last 10, 15, 20 years and some of the best [batsmen] in the world have come from India so there's no reason why they can't do it," Dhoni said. "During the first T20 World Cup we played in Durban on one of the fastest tracks you'll see and we beat England, South Africa and Australia."
However, Dhoni felt that it was the right approach for the batsmen to go for their shots from the start, despite having watched Shane Watson and David Warner assess conditions before opening up during their 104-run stand.
"It was a big score but it is a fast-scoring ground so I didn't think we were under too much pressure because of that," he said. "We needed a good start and you have to keep on going but a few shots when straight to the fielder. The aggressive approach has worked for us in the past but you just have to be a bit careful."
India now play two more Super Eights matches and the first of them is back at the Kensington Oval against West Indies. If the hosts were watching this performance, they are likely to be winding up Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach.
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