Perth: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Sunday took the blame on himself for a disastrous performance of his team against Australia, saying that he was the main culprit as the captain.
"I need to blame myself as I am the leader of this side. Of course, I am the main culprit, so yes I blame myself," Dhoni said at the post-match press conference here.
Dhoni also defended the seniors batsmen who have come under sharp criticism for consistently failing in Australia as well as preceding series in England. Asked whether the seniors should be phased out, Dhoni said that should come up only after the end of the series.
"It seems there is a lot of stress on how to get rid of the seniors. As I said, it would be a very careful decision given what they have done for the country and given the experience they have which they can share with youngsters," he said.
Everybody needs to be a part of it, players and BCCI at the same time. It's about taking right decisions. People went after Virat to be dropped and he batted really well in this Test.
"As for dropping the legends of the game, it would be a process, not an event. I have not sat and thought over it," he added.
Dhoni said the main reason behind the debacle has been the failure to score enough runs consistently. "If you see the games that we had played in England, the Test matches here, it is only the one reason - we have not put enough runs on the board, something that we need to be careful about because we want to give the bowlers that amount of runs to get the opposition out," he said.
"One or two bad innings, it can happen in Test cricket, but overall, the seven Test matches, this is a bit too long for the batting line up to flop," Dhoni added.
Dhoni said it was one of the worst phase for Indian cricket and blamed the batsmen for failing them. "The amount of cricket I have seen, this is definitely one of the worst phase where we have not done consistently well. We have not put runs on the board. Bowling, I think because of injuries, we suffered a set back, over here, we have not been as consistent," he said.
"Overall, I don't think bowling is a real worry, we have not been consistently batting well, our line-up flopping consistently."
He, however, was not in favour of phasing out all the senior players, saying that the team needs them for the youngsters to learn the ropes.
"You can't have all the seniors missing out at the same time. We have to be careful. You want to give exposure to youngsters but you also want a good mix of seniors," the skipper said.
"You don't need to play 100 games to be experienced. If you share whatever questions you have with these experienced players, the job of youngsters become easy.
"If you see all the three players we have got, if they don't score a 100 or 50, we feel they haven't scored runs. They must be feeling the pressure but it's very common. Throughout their career they have faced that kind of pressure," Dhoni said.
The 30-year-old player went to great length to defend himself on the tactical issues of captaining the side. "I don't blame myself tactically because it involves all the players. Execution is very important. If everyone bowls in one line, you have the option of defending that side of the field and also have catching fielders," he said.
"If you are not consistent, with nine fielders if you want two players in a catching position, and a gully, and rest of players to defend, it becomes very difficult.
"That's what Australian line-up has taught us, how to be consistent in bowling line and length and forcing the batsmen to commit the mistake," Dhoni said.
Dhoni is being severely criticized for his batting and captaincy with his former skipper Sourav Ganguly even suggesting that he was not serious anymore about Test cricket. "It's only I who know whether I take it seriously or not.
"It is difficult for others to judge it. As for my graph as a batsman and as a captain, it does worry me," he said.
"It's important to be in the present and think what needs to be done for the name of the country to go up. It hasn't happened in the last seven Tests which we have played outside.
"We would go to India and may be we would do well again. What's important is to realize how we do well when we go out of India. We need to know what steps to take to do it."
Asked repeatedly why his team was not showing any fight in the field and why nobody is cracking the whip in the dressing room, Dhoni said, "It's important to know what kind of culture you belong to, what really works for your side, what kind of man-management skills you have got."
"I feel every player needs to be managed in a separate way. There are certain players you need to get personal and go and explain to them and then there are some who have to be treated your way (give them a bullocking)," Dhoni said.
"Most of our players really step up when the need has come. There are no need to take 'X' measures. Of course we need to do well and the pressure is on but everyone, cricketers and support staff, we all are feeling bad. At the end of the day, we are professional cricketers but we are humans too. We run on emotions. It's a big part and parcel for leading an international cricketers' life," he said.
Dhoni more or less absolved his bowlers of much of the blame for the debacle. "In this Test, apart for a session and half, when Warner attacked them, I don't think they bowled badly. Once Warner went after the bowlers, it became difficult to contain him. We had open fields to him, we wanted him to score in ones and twos and once he got out, we could put the pressure on the rest of the batsmen. I dont think bowling is a real worry.
"Batsmen on the other hand are consistently failing. We have to score at least 300-325 runs, depending on venue and wicket which we haven't been able to do," he said.
There has been also calls for the head of coach Duncan Fletcher who has been in charge of seven straight losses of the team on foreign soil.
"He's a great guy to have. He's one of the most experienced coaches around. There are small technical things he knows about batting and bowling which are crucial to have.
"It's not like he has become the coach and we have lost two series and he has to be blamed for it. Ultimately, it's the players who go out and perform. Coaches can motivate and help on technical areas. But it's up to 11 players to go out and perform."
The inevitable question on everyone's mind was if India was really that bad or if Australia was really that good. On this Dhoni said, "I would make it simple. Australia are playing very good cricket at this point of time. We are not playing to the kind of potential we have. That's why the result looks so different. Same was the case in England. A series looks interesting if both the sides look in good form or if both are in bad form."
Dhoni said it might be possible the youngsters would be able to score in familiar conditions back home but he warned it wasn't a foregone conclusion.
"Most of our batters who would come in they would perform well in India. But you need to find a way as to how they could also perform outside India. There would be quite a few games played in India but they are tough opposition at the same time. I think it would be a good exposure to them."
Dhoni also defended Ishant Sharma and explained why he brought him only after Australia had put on 88 runs on the board.
"His bowling is going up and down. He hasn't been able to do that adjustment everytime. But he is bowling quick, he is getting good bounce. Luck has also played a huge role. He is beating batsmen, There are loads of time when he has beaten batsmen and not got edges. It's a matter of time when the luck would favour him," said Dhoni.
He also defended his decision to play with four fast bowlers in the third Test at the WACA and omit spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
"It's not easy for me to say if Ashwin was playing, he would have had a bigger impact. He's a good spinner but you have to see the conditions. If you look at the game, it was more in favour of fast bowlers."
Somebody had the black humour to ask him how he intended to switch off after this game. Go-karting perhaps?
"May be some other sport would work," Dhoni shot back.