Sydney: A downcast India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni blamed his team's shambolic first-session batting collapse and the monumental triple century by his Australian counterpart Michael Clarke for the humiliating innings-and-680-run defeat in the second Test at the SCG on Friday.
India found themselves buried under the weight of Australia's 659/4 declared after themselves collapsing to 191 all out in the first innings. Ultimately, the team lost on the fourth day itself, to be down 0-2 in the four-match series. The defeat was also India's sixth consecutive Test defeat on foreign soil.
"We were down in the first session on the first day. A few batsman got out to good deliveries and after that Clarke and (Ricky) Ponting batted really well. They built a great partnership," Dhoni said at the post-match presentation.
India could only manage 191 in the first innings, while Australia piled up 659/4 declared.
"It was a good track to bat on. Clarke played brilliantly. He got the pace of the wicket. It was difficult to contain him and he was well-supported by Ponting and (Michael) Hussey."
"On the Sydney track, over 300-350 in the first innings would have been a good score. Once you get out cheaply, the whole mindset of opposition changes. We not only were not able to take wickets, but also couldn't stop them from scoring briskly. After scoring 200 runs, when you see batsmen scoring freely, you get confused whether to get them out or to stop them from scoring briskly," added Dhoni.
"We need to come up with ways. If we can't break, we should be able to contain so that we can wait for the second new ball. But if they have already scored close to 300 runs, it becomes very difficult."
Dhoni also struggled to explain as to why plans made the dressing room were simply falling apart on the field.
"If bowlers plan and execute those plans, it looks good. Once it starts to go wrong, it becomes very difficult. For instance in this game, there was just one gully fielder. That's when you invited batsmen to go for a cover drive. If he commits a mistake, then the chance goes to slip. If it starts to reverse, you need to change the plan, look to have fielders on the leg side and bowl as straight as possible."
"We have tried to attack a lot with Zaheer because he is our main wicket-taking bowler. So I don't want him to contain any batsman as such. So it's about execution. With exposure, our bowlers must have learnt from the last two games. You need to bowl consistently a good line and length. You need to bowl to your field - if the opposition have to score, they have to score through a particular field. You can't allow them to score on either side of the wicket."
Dhoni cited the example of the Australian bowlers, who planned and executed brilliantly.
"Australian bowlers have looked to bowl on one side. Once a batsman gets set, they get it away from the drive and play on batsman's patience. Then it depends on who commits a mistake early."
Reacting to suggestions that he fell back on defence too early into the match, Dhoni said that was not the case.
"You can't have four or five slips all the time. You need to have strategies. It's a balance between getting wickets and stopping them from scoring briskly. In fact, I felt I kept the slip cordon a little bit longer in this Test."
Dhoni, however, remained optimistic of a turnaround in the third Test, starting on January 13 at Perth.
"Of course we can win there. It's not about what kind of start we have got, we will look to win in Perth," said Dhoni.
Clarke, Man of the Match for his unbeaten triple hundred, was expectedly ecstatic after playing such a crucial role in guiding his team to victory. In his moment of glory, Clarke chose to laud his bowlers for taking 20 Indian wickets on a pitch that was easy to bat on.
"That's a great win on a really flat wicket," declared the Aussie captain. "It was a tough wicket to take 10 wickets on, but our bowlers were brilliant. I've spoken about consistency and our guys are doing that now. In any team you need experience and youth and I think now this Australian team has it."
The 30-year-old was also relieved after his predecessor Ricky Ponting ended his two-year century drought with a crucial 134.
"I was as relieved as Punt (Ponting). His attitude around the group has been exceptional," he said. "(Michael) Hussey and Punter have done a good job for the past few months. Probably not as consistently, but they have been good."
Clarke also said the discipline in the squad had improved, and that it is making a big difference to the overall performance.
"Our discipline has improved. We have got the talent. The consistency is getting better as well," he said.
As if the triple century was not enough, Clarke was quite a handful with the ball as well as he dismissed Sachin Tendulkar (80), stopping the Indian icon from getting to his elusive 100th international century.
"It (Sachin's wicket) is a very handy one to have," he laughed, before adding that Australia are contemplating unleashing a four-man pace attack on India in the third Test at the bouncy WACA in Perth.
Clarke said eventually the philosophy of always putting the team first was key in the win over India.
"We have always put the team first. I never thought about any milestone while declaring the innings yesterday. The only thing that I had in my mind was that India have a great batting line-up and we needed time to bowl them out," said the local boy, who scored an unbeaten 329 at his home ground that was hosting its 100th Test.