MS Dhoni bowls during Day 4 of the 2nd Test against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. (AFP Photo)
The grey stubble made him look tired, but the answers were equally tired.
India had just completed a disastrous tour of New Zealand, paying the price for a lack of consistency in pitch conditions that were not threatening and committing serious lapses on the field. But MS Dhoni sounded so detached at the end of it, he could well have been talking about another team.
He expressed helplessness that all the field placements he tried and the pacers bowling their hearts out did not work against Brendon McCullum, whose monumental batting effort came only after India had dropped him twice early in his innings.
India have not won an overseas Test since June, 2011, in the Caribbbean. Since then they have been routed in England and Australia and lost in South Africa and New Zealand. In fact, in Wellington, India had the advantage of the conditions as they bowled first up on a green pitch and dismissed the hosts cheaply.
“Overall, we will accept that we were not able to get two batsmen out,” Dhoni said at the end of the tour. He dissected various aspects of the team but gave no indication the captain and coach should take responsibility for the team not being up to the mark when not playing at home.
New Zealand skipper, Brendon McCullum, on the proudest day of his career, was generous enough to say he was a bit “embarrassed” to have upstaged the country’s past batting stalwarts by becoming the first to score a Test triple century. Dhoni, on the other hand, simply said the team was constantly improving.
England and Australia are India’s next Test destinations, and the team does not appear it works as a unit. But Dhoni was dismissive about results. “I’m someone who speaks more about the process rather than thinking just about the results. If you compare our performance, the last two series we played, after a long break, outside the subcontinent.
"We have been improving. If you compare those two series (8-0) with the last few we have played, there is plenty of improvement. That’s what it’s all about. You want to keep improving to a stage where you start converting those good situations into better starts and start capitalising on it.”
What about the batsmen, who struggled in the ODIs and failed in the first innings in Auckland on a pitch that turned out to be good for batting. “What I wanted was for them to improve as cricketers. Often it’s not about how much runs you have scored. It’s often about what kind of cricket you are playing. You may get a good ball and you may get out. But at times, back home what happens is if you score a 50, you are in form and batting well. But that’s not the reality.”
So, does the team lack the killer instinct? “We are trying, it is very difficult to pinpoint. It is not like making food where you say, okay, salt is missing, that is why it is not good. In the last two series, we have not been able to capitalise when we were in similar situation. I think it is good we were in a situation like that and slowly we will be able to capitalise also.”