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Nothing is a safe score in T20 cricket: Dhoni

01 April 2016 10:00 By R Kaushik, Mumbai

Mahendra Singh Dhoni tried every trick in the book to try and upend West Indies’ run-chase at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday (March 31) night. At the end, all he could do was doff his hat to the opposition who made a chase of 193 appear relatively straightforward, though the India captain did concede that the dew and two wickets off no-balls had huge parts to play in the result once Darren Sammy won the toss.

“Frankly, you have to take into account that nobody wants to bowl a no-ball but it is just that on tracks like these, when it is so difficult – if you bowl a no-ball and get a wicket off that no-ball, then there is no one else to blame,” said Dhoni, of Lendl Simmons being reprieved on 18 and 50 because R Ashwin and Hardik Pandya respectively had overstepped. “Also, one of the catches was a brilliant catch (by Jasprit Bumrah sliding to his right at backward point off Ashwin). What it does is it gives you a free-hit and the batsmen get a chance to get into some kind of a momentum. I feel that the point at which the no-balls were bowled were quite crucial. If we had got those wickets, we would have got the opportunity to bowl one or two overs of the spinners and get away with them without giving too many runs. Nobody wants to bowl a no-ball so I don’t want to be too tough on them but when there is pressure, you have to be at your best. The no-ball is something that can be avoided, especially the front foot no-ball, you practice more and you practice more.”

India’s biggest total of the tournament appeared safe at various times, with West Indies reaching home with two deliveries to spare, even if it was never in serious danger on the run rate. Was India perhaps 10-15 runs light? “You know, 30 more would have been really nice,” said Dhoni, only half in jest. “But you have to realise it was half an hour early start, a bad toss to lose. When they started batting, the first few overs were fine, but after that there was a considerable amount of dew, which meant the spinners couldn’t bowl the way they would have liked to.

“It was coming on nicely and the ball was getting wet, so that was the difference between the first innings and second innings. In the evening, the surface had some assistance for the spinners, it was gripping but in the second innings, there wasn’t much in it for them. It was quite difficult to score 190 (batting first). We are saying 10-15 short based on the second innings but you have to analyse that the surface was completely different. If you’re looking for 210 in the first innings, you may end up with 160 and on this wicket, 160 becomes quite below par. The only thing I’m disappointed about are the two no-balls. Other than that, we tried our best and even if the conditions were not in favour of the spinners, whatever resources we had, we tried our best in the game.”

India have had issues with executing its plans on flat tracks, but Dhoni said much of Thursday’s problems stemmed from the dew, which prevented the skipper from giving Ashwin more than two overs. “As the dew comes in, it becomes difficult for them to turn the ball. The seam gets wet and the surface becomes a bit greasy, so it comes onto the bat nicely. We have seen that our spinners do struggle in conditions like these. If you remember, in one of the T20 World Cups (in Sri Lanka in 2012), we were knocked out because of one bad game (against Australia) and in that game, maybe it was rain that got the ball wet. That’s where our spinners find it difficult, it was quite evident. Ash only bowled two overs, (Ravindra) Jadeja we were forced to bowl the last over of his quota, otherwise he would have only bowled three overs.”

This was only India’s third defeat in 16 Twenty20 Internationals this year, but the second time in 12 months that India has crashed out at the semifinal stage of a World Cup. Last March, it was to Australia in the 50-over format in Sydney, now it is the ICC World Twenty20. Has the Dhoni finishing touch gone missing, someone sought to know.

“If you see the team combination, you have roles and responsibility assigned to every individual and if you are performing your roles and responsibilities well, you will end up winning the game,” he replied. “If you compare today’s game, the surface in the first innings and the second innings was very different. Ultimately, what matters is how the players are performing. We start with a flip of the coin but other than that, you have to be at your best, you have to keep performing. If you know there will be dew, you try to win the toss, you can’t really control it. You try to win the toss, put the opposition in and try to take the game away from there. Luck is a factor definitely but at the end of the game, you have to play good cricket.

“None of the (previous) tournaments we have won was because of good luck, there is nothing called good luck. You have to execute your plans well. When an individual is given that tough responsibility of bowling one over when there is pressure, he bowls a good over, he executes his plan; ultimately you win the game. It is not about if X is the captain you will win the series or if the other guy is the captain you will lose the series. It is about what the plan is, how well the guys have executed it. Also, it is not as if West Indies will say ‘OK, MS Dhoni is the captain, let us give him the victory’. They are also here to win matches.”

The glittering array of batting strike force in the West Indies ranks could have forced India to try to overreach, but Dhoni said his team had stuck steadfastly to not falling into that trap. “We have to keep reviewing (what is a good total),” pointed out Dhoni. “If you see the Indian brand of cricket, we take one or two overs, we see how the wicket is behaving and according to that we make plans. You evaluate every 3-4 overs, at times in two overs also, depending on who is bowling. That has been our strength.

“We always get a score that is a par plus score. Right from the start, if you think about the big hitters and start looking as 210 as a good score, you may end up getting 160 or 170 and that may not be enough on a wicket like this. You always look to back your strengths, go for a par plus score, don’t go for a score that is an absolute score. What we have seen in this format is that nothing is a safe score. We have seen 220, 230 also getting chased down, so depending on your strength and the depending on the wicket, we decide this is the score and make sure we reach there.”

India did reach the score it desired, but the dew, no-balls, and Johnson Charles, Lendl Simmons and Andre Russell gatecrashed its party.