An intelligent man will accept his weaknesses and try to build on his strengths. This is exactly what Mahendra Singh Dhoni seemed to do, reconciling himself to the fact that his bowling isn’t exactly setting the world on fire at the moment. It was the batting that needed to step up and pick up the slack, and even in pursuit of Pakistan’s imposing 302, there was plenty of hope.
“We got off to a good start through Gautam (Gambhir)and Rahul (Dravid). But we didn’t capitalise on that,” explained Dhoni. “Virat (Kohli) and myself got out in quick succession, (Suresh) Raina got a tough one, then Yusuf (Pathan) and a couple of run outs. When you are chasing 300 you have to be at your best and when you lose wickets in quick succession it becomes tough to chase.”
Dhoni conceded that there was too much short and wide bowling, something that Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf exploited to the hilt. “You have to bowl in the areas where you have fielding cover. We bowled a bit short. I’ve never seen so many runs being scored backward point and over point,” said Dhoni. “We could have created chances but we consistently bowled short and because of the pitch we were on the receiving end.”
The absence of Yuvraj Singh, both as a calming influence on the batting in the chase, and as a bowler in the middle overs was felt deeply. Dhoni revealed that Sachin Tendulkar’s right shoulder wasn’t quite 100% and that’s why he could not be risked as a part-time option. “It’s tough for him because he has a shoulder injury also. He doesn’t bowl consistently,” said Dhoni. “He’s our main batsman so we don’t want him to get injured.”
On Saturday, three of India’s bowlers went for more than 6.5 runs an over, and the captain fast ran out of options. “Frankly speaking, I thought I was short of three bowlers. Things were really tough, I didn’t know who to turn to,” said Dhoni. “I had Bhajji but it was an off day for him as well. When you bowl Bhajji with a part-timer they always take runs off the part-timer and just look to play out Bhajji. One of the reasons Bhajji was brought late was so that they had to score runs against him.”
Shoaib Malik disagreed with Dhoni’s decision to bowl the part-time medium pace of Kohli (3 overs for 21 runs) instead of Harbhajan. “I think Dhoni should have brought on Harbhajan early,” said Malik. “We were three down and another wicket would have hurt us. Things could have been very different.”