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‘Need to dominate the crucial phases’

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Auckland: Desperate to bring the Indian team’s faltering tour of New Zealand back on track, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Wednesday asked his players to dictate terms by dominating crucial situations in the two-match Test series starting here on Thursday.

Dhoni revisited the team’s performance in the Test series in South Africa to motivate his squad.

“If we consider the last series we played, we had one bad session, two-and-a-half-hours of bad cricket. Compared to the cricket we played throughout the series, that was really good,” said Dhoni.

“We have not capitalised during the crucial situations in a match. That is the only area of concern to some extent.

“The batsmen batted really well, but it was just those couple of hours when we did not do well. We have seen that in this format, it can have a big impact on the game.

“It is important that when we are in a situation where we can command authority or dictate terms, it is very important that we do that and go through that phase and keep building on it,” he added.

“They have already had a look at the wickets, what they will be like, how they will play,” he said.

“The plus point in Test matches is that you can pick and choose when you want to hit it and when you don’t,” said Dhoni, replying to a question on short-ball tactics.

“If the opposition has scored 280 or 290 odd and we don’t get too many runs in the first ten overs, batsmen who come in later have to play their strokes as the asking rate keeps rising if you keep leaving the balls. That is the only difference,” Dhoni added.

Dhoni said grass on the pitch alone couldn’t be an intimidating factor. “What’s more important than the amount of grass, is that whether the grass is lively or not, or the base of the wicket has moisture or not. These are the two things that push you to take a decision,” he said.

“We will see how it is looking. Whether it has a green tinge, which means it has a bit of moisture. And if the base of the wicket is soft, which means it will assist the fast bowlers initially and as the game progresses, it will dry out and become harder and better for stroke-play,” he said about the pitch.

“The good thing is that their approach (in South Africa) was really fantastic. As a team, we like to give them short spells so that they are fresh thinking about the third or the fourth spell, if needed. We try to use them in short bursts. But if the situation demands, they will have to go for long spells,” said Dhoni.

“In South Africa, they did a very good job. Even after bowling for long spells, when they came for the last spell, they were still putting in a lot of effort. That is very important,” added Dhoni.