Unfazed by the criticism for persisting with an off-colour Piyush Chawla game after game, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni defended the leg-spinner's selection, saying he needs to be kept in "good mental state" for the tough World Cup matches ahead.
Chawla leaked quite a few runs against the Netherlands for his two wickets yesterday but Dhoni said he was selected for this match to get him back in rhythm.
"We had to see which player needed this game. Piyush (Chawla) has been under pressure a bit. You want your bowlers to be in good mental state, and that is one reason why we gave him the chance," Dhoni said at the post-match press conference after India clinched a hard-fought five wicket victory over the Netherlands.
"He was bowling more freely today, it was an important game for him. He started off well but struggled against England. He made his debut early and is coming back into the team. People criticised him left and right, so it was a big game for him. Overall, I am quite happy with him," he said.
Dhoni said that Ashwin will be given a chance in the remaining league matches and described the Tamil Nadu spinner as "mentally very strong". "I am still suppose to give Ashwin a chance. I think he will feature in one of the coming matches. He is mentally very strong and stable and will be able to perform whenever given the chance. I think it will be good to give him a chance", he said. Dhoni acknowledged that the five-wicket victory may not look too great but it was largely because of some experimentation the team did in the batting order.
"Winning is important. It is not a bad win. Of course it looks bad but the record books will say we won by five wickets. We were under some pressure in the middle overs, overall it was a good experience," he pointed out. The Indian captain tried to draw positives from the hard-fought win and said all the batsmen have now got a decent hit which will stand them in good stead in the knock-out stages of the mega event. "Everybody has got fair amount of exposure now. That will be quite handy in the knock-out stage.
It is important to keep improving in all departments of the game," he said. Asked whether the team would continue to experiment, Dhoni said, "We have not really experimented as such. We just tried a few things. We are playing against two big teams and it is important to keep the momentum going.
On why Yusuf Pathan was promoted to the number three slot, Dhoni said the idea was to improve the net run rate and to give him a decent outing. "He is an aggressive batsman.
We wanted him to play a long innings but the wicket was a little too slow. I am happy with his performance, he has a certain role in the team," he said.
Dhoni said he introduced his spinners as early as the fourth over of the innings as the track did not offer much to the fast bowlers. "The Netherlands are not used to spin.
There was no point carrying on with the pace bowlers, that is why we tried out Yusuf. When we thought that the pacers will get some reverse, we brought them back," he said. Dhoni lavished praise on Yuvraj Singh, who scored a fifty and picked up two wickets, saying he has turned the table.
"I have always believed that he is a big match player. It's good to see him score runs and get wickets," said Dhoni. Rival captain Peter Borren said he was happy with the "brave" performance of his team and described the match as some kind of a "roller coaster ride". "It was a kind of roller coaster ride. We started off well, lost our way in the middle, made some runs in the end.
Then we had India at 99 for four and we had a chance," Borren said. "We had a couple of good moments but we could not turn it around, probably we lacked the firepower I guess. But it was a brave performance and I am happy with the boys," he said. Yuvraj, who got the Man-of-the-Match award, said he is happy to be performing after an injury-marred last year.
"Last year was full of injuries; I was coming in and going out. So I am happy to be back in form. My job is the play the middle overs and try to take the team to the end. I batted according to the situation," he said. Asked about his bowling, Yuvraj said, "I have been bowling well. It feels nice to contribute, and nice to get Ten Doeschate's wicket."