Dhoni at a loss to explain defeat against New Zealand

Dhoni at a loss to explain defeat against New Zealand

His team overwhelmingly crushed by New Zealand, ranked seven rungs below India, a confused skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni muttered some inanities about the loss, asking his batsmen to "improvise and adapt" while praising his bowlers who gave away 303 runs in the fifth and final one-dayer.

After losing the fourth ODI three days ago, Dhoni had castigated his wayward bowlers, asking them to use their "brains more". Today they conceded over 300 runs but he thought the new-ball bowling was "really good" and even the death bowling to some extent.

The 0-4 loss to the Kiwis with one ODI tied, meant that the Indians were dethroned from their number one ranking. The whitewash meant that the Dhoni-led team has a winless streak of eight ODIs since last month, including three in South Africa.

"All defeats are bad and at the end of the day you can't really measure disappointment," said a philosophical Dhoni.

Despite batting failures, he backed his batsmen but cautioned them about the need to learn and adapt their game.

"We have invested a lot in our batting. It wasn't a lack of experience because a lot of players in the side have played a lot of ODI cricket and most of them are batsmen. But New Zealand executed their plans very well and whatever we tried – chasing or batting first – it didn't work. So now it is up to our batsmen to improvise and adapt and bring in a positive attitude," he said.

"After one season, once you become a settled side the opposition starts planning against each and every batsman and that has been the case all over the world.

"Fresh questions are asked and the batsmen are talented enough to get out of it. But they will need to put in a lot of effort in the practice sessions and mentally make their plans, what they need to do once they go into the game," he tried to explain.

Dhoni said his team has the talent to rise to the challenge.

"I am hoping with the kind of talent they have, the amount of games that they have played they will come out of it and that will be a big positive for us," Dhoni said, outlining this poor performance as a bad phase for the team.

India made a couple of changes to their side ahead of this must-win game, dropping both Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina. Virat Kohli was asked to open the innings, while Ajinkya Rahane batted at number three. Ambati Rayudu played his first ODI since the Zimbabwe trip in mid-2013 and Stuart Binny made his India debut.

"We had to make these changes at some point. Raina was getting good starts but he was not able to convert those starts. Sometimes if you can take the individual away for a few games, he can relax and think freely about his game and that's the reason why we rested both Shikhar (Dhawan) and Suresh Raina in this game," Dhoni opined.

"We had a chat with Virat, and he was quite confident about opening. It allowed us to play Rahane at number three and Rayudu at number four, which allowed us to maintain the strength of our team.

"Rahane came in as an opener but a few months ago, along with the selectors, we decided that he is a good middle order batsman and he bats well there. We have tried him as opener earlier and it didn't work, so we should keep trying him in the middle order," added the Indian skipper.

In the end, it was once again the bowling woes that hampered India in this series and Dhoni said the bowlers need to apply their mind and try to improvise.

"When it comes to talent, we definitely have bowlers who can do well. But at the same time they will have to start using their brains more and improvise themselves," he said."(Mohd.) Shami is someone who has been quite consistent, apart from this series.

 Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been off this series but he’s a good bowler. At the end of the day they need to push themselves because with rule changes it is going to be quite tough. But it hasn’t been rule changes hurting us in this series, it has been bad bowling," Dhoni signed off.

"At the same time, both Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor batted really well. The main difference between the two sides was the middle order batting. They batted really well. They rotated the strike well and kept wickets in the hand and in the last few overs, they went for the big shots," Dhoni added.

One of the many criticisms levelled against India is their reluctance to change when a particular combination doesn't work out. But the skipper was defensive about this approach.

"Regarding Ishwar Pandey, we thought that there is some more work needed on his bowling before he can be tried, but this exposure has been very good for him. We thought about playing an extra batsman but when the top six or seven batsmen are not playing well, then why should we rely on number eight. It will also weaken the bowling," he reasoned.

"And we wanted Ashwin's batting. The one match that was tied was because of his batting performance, so that is why we back Ashwin," said Dhoni, answering as to why Amit Mishra was not given a go.

There were a few positives to take home though, as Dhoni later pointed out.
"Ravindra Jadeja's performance was really good. With the ball, he has been quite consistent but his batting was a cause for concern earlier.

"Till we find a seaming all-rounder it is very difficult to play with five bowlers and six batsmen. So we always wanted him to bat well and we know that he has got the potential but in this series he batted quite well."

Dhoni said even the fielding was not too bad given tyhe poor reputation that his team has.

"...the fielding has been exceptional. Maybe a couple of fast bowlers dropped a few catches but overall the fielders have been exceptional. We got quite a few run outs that could have changed the course of the game, if you are playing good cricket," he said.

"Our batting may not have clicked, but we still got in excess of 250 in all but one game. So it is important to learn out of these positives and get rid of the negative feelings and thoughts," the Indian captain signed off. 

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