Mumbai: An incredible 17 wickets fell on the last day of the third Test and a baffled India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni says he has no idea what happened to the Wankhede track, which had nothing to offer to spinners till the fourth day.
West Indies lost eight wickets in their second innings to collapse to 134 and India lost nine batsmen in pursuit of a victory target of 243 to eventually fall short by just one run on Saturday.
"Frankly, I don't know what happened. It started to turn in the morning. Till yesterday evening, everything was fine. It was among the flattest wickets. I'm seriously saying, I am not joking, something happened in the morning and it started to turn. Most of us thought it will be a draw, but somehow it turned into a tie. It was a close game, as the scorebook suggests," Dhoni said after winning the series 2-0.
Dhoni expressed surprise at the Wankhede pitch as 17 wickets fell on the last day of the third Test.
The India captain said it became extremely difficult to play strokes as the ball was not coming on to the bat.
"There was a bit of bounce for the spinners and for the fast bowlers the ball was stopping a bit. Once you look to play a shot, you had to be careful that you are at the pitch of the ball. If you are not, you saw batsmen getting caught at mid-wicket or covers."
Dhoni said their strategy was to run as hard as possible to keep the scoreboard ticking over, as boundaries were hard to come by.
"It was quite easy to stay on the wicket but difficult to score runs. A few of us thought if we can rotate and get singles, it would become a bit easy as the game progresses. No one dismissal was the turning point, but it was a good game of cricket in the end."
Asked about Virat Kohli, who is scoring fifties but not converting those into big knocks, Dhoni said the Delhi youngster would learn with the time. Kohli scored 52 and 63 in the third Test.
"It's a learning phase for everyone, not only him. Next game he is in the same situation, he may bat in a different way. Even the most experienced players tend to make these kinds of mistakes, so nothing to worry."
Dhoni was also effusive in his praise of the spin duo of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, who finished with 22 and 20 wickets in the series respectively.
"The first two wickets he (Ashwin) took on the first day (Adrian Barath and Kraigg Brathwaite) were really good ones. After that he had to work hard. Both spinners did a very good job for us. Not to forget that our over rate in all three games for the first time ever was plus 15, plus 19 and some big number. Hope it carries on."
Dhoni, however, said it was not right to compare them with Anil Kumble or Harbhajan Singh at this stage of their careers.
"Ashwin has played three Tests, Ojha has played more and it's not right to compare them with Anil or Harbhajan. They bowled well and were able to put pressure. When nothing was there, they did not let the opposition to score. Overall I am very happy with the kind of bowling they did throughout the series."
On Ashwin's maiden Test century, Dhoni said, "Let him take wickets, that's the priority. If he scores runs, that's a bonus for us."
The India captain, who has been rested for the five-match ODI series prior to the long tour of Australia, was also satisfied with the performance of Ishant Sharma.
"I think in this series, Ishant bowled consistently well. He was up in the pace area. And he was bowling in the right areas. Overall I was very happy with the kind of bowling he did throughout the series," Dhoni said.
Dhoni did not hide his disappointment about the wickets used for the series and suggested that spin-friendly tracks should be prepared for home advantage.
"What we played on the fifth day wicket today, I want the wickets to turn like that from the first day, that's when you send a bit of panic to the opposition dressing room. At the same time, you are under pressure to perform, which makes it interesting. I don't know when was the last time we really played on a wicket that was really turning square. The last time we played at the CCI (against Sri Lanka in 2009), maybe it was turning. I am hoping we will stick to our kind of wickets and it will turn from the very first day, so that the toss does not become important."
Asked about the team picked for Australia, Dhoni seemed happy with the players he had got.
"It looks like a very good side. From what we have seen of Umesh (Yadav) and Varun (Aaron) in the last three games, they can bowl quick. They must have learnt a lot from these games. Spinners have done well. Our batting order is at full strength. Looks like a good side and hopefully we will do well."
Dhoni also hoped that Zaheer Khan will be fit to spearhead the pace attack.
"Zak is giving his 100 percent, whenever he had to do some kind of rehab. We are hoping he's 100 percent fit for the Australia series. Once he goes and plays in a first-class game, that will help him judge to some extent how he feels. We had seen in the practice stint that he was quite fit, and I hope nothing happens in the next game he plays."