Indian captain says he wanted to field first against South Africa to have a better shot at staying ahead of the Net Run Rate
India paid the ultimate price for one poor evening out with the ball, against Australia when it lost with 5.1 overs to spare. That defeat, combined with Pakistan’s 32-run win over Australia on Tuesday night, knocked it out of the ICC World Twenty2012 on Net Run Rate, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni said he wasn’t too disappointed with his team’s overall performance.
“As far as the tournament is concerned, I think it was quite a satisfactory performance,” said Dhoni. “We didn’t know that the other match would impact our progress so much. Of course, we knew that there would be a little bit of an impact on whether we progress, but the margin in the first match was so big that we had a problem.
“In this tournament, we lost just one game, though we lost it badly. All of you have been covering cricket for a long time, we all know what impact rain has on bowlers, especially spinners,” said Dhoni, referring to the rain interruption that threw India’s plans off gear against Australia after it fielded three specialist spinners. “Our bowlers don’t bowl at 140-plus, so let us get practical about what the reason was and ask whether it was the real fault of the players. It is not, it can happen in this format. And when you are at a stage where other games involving other teams can affect you, you don’t want that kind of situation. But sometimes you are forced to accept what is pushed on you.”
Explaining the rationale behind not playing the extra spinner against South Africa, Dhoni said, “According to the equation (India needed to win with four overs to spare to edge out Pakistan on NRR), we wanted to field first and try and overhaul the target in 15 or 16 overs. That’s why we wanted to play the extra batsman. But the difference was quite high because we were batting first, we needed to win by 30-35 runs. We were not very comfortable with the strategy. Batting first, you don’t know what a good score is.”
Dhoni conceded that even at the break, which India went into at 152 for 6, the team knew that keeping South Africa down to 121 wouldn’t be easy. ““We wanted to go after them initially and we wanted to use the new ball,” he said. “I knew that if our fast bowlers could swing it a bit and get those early breakthroughs in the first six overs, then we could put pressure through the spinners. But if we tried the other way around, it is more than certain that if the fast bowlers come on later, it will be difficult for them to get batsmen out unless they play a rash shot. We got the breakthroughs but then they batted quite well and Rohit’s (Sharma) over went for runs. But 120 was quite a low target to defend. We won this game by one run, so it is difficult to say that if a few strategies had been changed, we could have defeated them big.”
After winning the ICC World Twenty20 2007, India hasn’t entered the semifinals even once, despite all players having great exposure to Twenty20 cricket through the Indian Premier League. “The IPL is very different, I have always said it is a domestic tournament,” said Dhoni. “There are a lot of international players in all sides but the role of the domestic players is very important. When you are playing against international sides, the bowling attack of the oppositions is quite good.
“Often, when the wicket doesn’t support our bowlers, then we struggle. On flat tracks, we find it more difficult than on seaming tracks. In the first year (in South Africa), 90% of our matches were in Durban and our bowlers became effective all of a sudden. Whatever we were scoring, we were able to defend it. If you ask me, I would prefer a turning track or a seaming wicket for a Twenty20 game because it suits our bowlers more compared to a flat track.”