|Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Calcutta/Auckland: After the Indian batsmen totalled 202 in the first innings, not many would have believed that they could chase down the 407-run target to win the first Test, against New Zealand. But when they stopped at 366, falling short by just 40 runs, it must have been a real heartbreak Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men.
It wasn’t really surprising when Dhoni revealed that he had mixed emotions after the defeat, because despite the loss the Indians did put up a gallant fight.
“I have mixed emotions about this Test match… After the 80th over, we lost a few wickets in quick succession… We also had a tough decision (Ajinkya Rahane) at that time… I think we weren’t lucky enough… If Ajinkya had got some 30-odd runs then, things might have been different,” Dhoni said on Sunday.
Yes, it was yet another overseas Test loss under Dhoni’s captaincy, but the captain prefers counting the positives from such a close contest. According to him, experiencing such intense competition is equal to playing three-four Tests.
“Tight games like these gives you the experience of three-four Test matches… You learn about the need to break the target down session by session. Hopefully, there will be plenty of players in our dressing room who have learnt a lot out of it,” Dhoni said.
“Overall, we played good cricket… It didn’t go on for five days, but it was exciting,” he added.
Recollecting how India lost a few close games in the one-day series against New Zealand, Dhoni lamented how his team have failed to convert their advantageous situations into victories. “We have been in good positions in this series… Including the ODIs… But we have not been able to capitalise on them. Maybe we are still learning and in the second Test we will capitalise if we get into similar situations,” the captain hoped.
Asked if India could have won the match had Virat Kohli not been out to a poor shot, Dhoni defended his deputy. “We all know the importance of his (Kohli) wicket…
“But it was not just about his dismissal, we also lost other wickets. The second new ball moved for may be five or six overs… If we would have not given our wickets, we would have got those remaining 40 runs. There were quite a few things that did not go our way,” Dhoni said.
Praising the effort of his bowlers, Dhoni said: “The bowlers bowled fantastically to get us back in the game… I didn’t think we batted well in the first innings and that helped them to take a massive lead of 300-plus runs.
“I haven’t seen our bowlers perform so well. It was a good wicket, not really a seamer-friendly wicket… Still, they bowled their hearts out.
“I think this is the best I’ve seen our bowlers bowl on a good wicket… They bowled a tight line, bowled wicket-taking deliveries…
“They also restricted the batsmen and didn’t give away too many runs. I think they should continue doing that.”
On the Indian batsmen, Dhoni said: “The batsmen did well in the second innings... We had a quite a big target to chase… We needed a good start…
“We tried to break the chase into small sessions of 15-20 minutes each. We were able to do that, and got a few partnerships as well… Shikhar (Dhawan) got a hundred… But we kept losing wickets at crucial moments. That hurt us.”