Sydney: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Thursday defended an under-fire Virat Kohli for his indiscreet shot selection in the lost semi-final clash against Australia in the ICC Cricket World Cup, here today.
Chasing an imposing 329 for a win, India were bundled out for 233 in 46.5 overs with Dhoni top-scoring with a run-a-ball 65 as the batting was guilty of buckling under pressure, including Kohli (1).
Asked if Kohli’s shot selection was reflective of the pressure on him, Dhoni batted strongly for his deputy.
“Pehli baat yeh hai ki til ka taad nahin banate hain (Let’s not make a mountain out of a mole hill). Let’s accept the fact that he played a shot that didn’t pay off. It happens and it happens to a lot of batsmen,” Dhoni said in the post-match conference.
“Once the opposition puts over 300 runs on the board and once they have quality bowlers, at some point of time you have to take that risk. If it pays off, if it clicks, all of a sudden everything changes. He played a shot, it didn’t pay off and that’s it. I would say it happens in cricket,” he added.
The skipper did admit that there were a few niggles as far as bowlers were concerned but at the same time said that it wasn’t anything alarming.
“About fitness, a few of them (bowlers) had a few niggles, but the whole unit was 100 per cent fit. Fast bowlers had a bit of niggle, but nothing that really stops them from playing, so there were no fitness issues as such.”
Asked as to when did he think that the chase was becoming difficult and probably they weren’t going to win it, the wicketkeeper-batsman answered, “I think after the fall of third wicket, I somehow sensed that it would be difficult from here on.”
With the fast bowlers having done well throughout, Dhoni wasn’t harsh on them for their flop show on the day, stating that they could have done “slightly better”.
“When we lost the toss, I was a bit worried as I thought maybe the spinners wouldn’t get as much purchase. But I feel (Ravindra) Jadeja and (Ravichandran) Ashwin, both bowled well. There was possibility of reverse swing going, so I felt our fast bowlers could have slightly better as there wouldn’t be much of a reverse swing. But once we came back into the game and restricted them to 328, I felt it was a good score.
“Yes, there was pressure, but at the same time it needed some good batting and good partnership, so it was a gettable score, but it needed some really hard work to get the runs on the board,” the skipper said.
Man-of-the-match Steven Smith, who struck a match-winning 105, scored a lot of runs off the pull shot and Dhoni was asked if the short-ball theory backfired on the day.
“Still, I think we got quite a few wickets. I don’t know how many, but I think minimum three we got. If you are getting seven and eight wickets and three is out of bounds, we have to take it. I feel we could have altered the length, not the short delivery. I feel at times we bowled slightly up than where we should have been.
“This wicket was not similar to some of the other wickets that we have played. As I said, we could have done something better, but it doesn’t really matter now,” Dhoni said.
Dhoni’s 70-run fifth wicket partnership with Ajinkya Rahane (44) did give the team hope but only for a brief while as the asking-rate kept climbing. The wicketkeeper-batsman also defended himself for not hitting the big shots early in pursuit of the tall score.
“You know, it’s a difficult one because as I said, our lower-order, they have not really been able to contribute. So if you start too early and if you lose a wicket, it’s nothing really left in the game. You get out for 150 maybe. So you have to take that risk at the right time. Maybe it was a bit too late, but if mine and Ajinkya’s partnership wouldn’t have come at that time, we would have packed up for 140 or 150 runs.”