Wellington: His team overwhelmingly crushed by New Zealand, ranked seven rungs below India, a confused skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni muttered some inanities about the loss, asking his batsmen to "improvise and adapt" while praising his bowlers who gave away 303 runs in the fifth and final one-dayer.
After losing the fourth ODI three days ago, Dhoni had castigated his wayward bowlers, asking them to use their "brains more". Today they conceded over 300 runs but he thought the new-ball bowling was "really good" and even the death bowling to some extent.
The 0-4 loss to the Kiwis with one ODI tied, meant that the Indians were dethroned from their number one ranking. The whitewash meant that the Dhoni-led team has a winless streak of eight ODIs since last month, including three in South Africa. "All defeats are bad and at the end of the day you can't really measure disappointment," said a philosophical Dhoni.
Despite batting failures, he backed his batsmen but cautioned them about the need to learn and adapt their game. "We have invested a lot in our batting. It wasn't a lack of experience because a lot of players in the side have played a lot of ODI cricket and most of them are batsmen. But New Zealand executed their plans very well and whatever we tried -- chasing or batting first -- it didn't work. So now it is up to our batsmen to improvise and adapt and bring in a positive attitude," he said.
"After one season, once you become a settled side the opposition starts planning against each and every batsman and that has been the case all over the world. "Fresh questions are asked and the batsmen are talented enough to get out of it. But they will need to put in a lot of effort in the practice sessions and mentally make their plans, what they need to do once they go into the game," he tried to explain.
Dhoni said his team has the talent to rise to the challenge. "I am hoping with the kind of talent they have, the amount of games that they have played they will come out of it and that will be a big positive for us," Dhoni said, outlining this poor performance as a bad phase for the team.
"Throughout this series, they (New Zealand) have played very good cricket. Their new ball pair has been very good but where they've taken the game away is in the middle overs batting which set up their charge late in the innings, picking up 80-90 runs consistently," Dhoni said after the 87-run drubbing today.
Asked about his own team's performance, a visibly drained Dhoni said, "It is important to improvise and adapt quickly, which we have failed to do." Dhoni said the team needed to click in unison while chasing big scores which did not happen through the series. "In this series, more often than not, we were chasing big scores and you can't rely on a couple of batsmen to score runs all the time. And so, apart from one game, most of the time we have been behind, having to catch up and the run-rate went too high. In the last 25 overs you can't really chase 8 or 9 runs per over. That has been the setback to some extent,"
For a change, the Indian skipper was appreciative of his bowlers' efforts. "In this game, the new ball bowling was really good and even the death bowling to some extent. I knew they will go for runs but I was happy with the death bowling. "More often than not in this series New Zealand have batted really well through the middle order, and have not lost too many wickets and scored at a brisk pace. That has been the difference between both teams. That's the time when we are losing wickets and we are only doing the catching up," he said.
While bowling has been a perennial issue for India, batting woes have started plaguing them as well. The starts have been slugging and too many wickets are lost, putting the middle-order under pressure. Along with the batting, middle overs too have become a problem for the Indian team as they have been searching for wickets while Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor have taken the games away frequently.
"Yes, the middle overs' bowling is something that we have to look at and think what we can do there, how we can improve. It is important so that the opposition can't score freely in the middle overs and don't have wickets in hand for the last 15 overs and score freely," he said.
"At the same time, both Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor batted really well. The main difference between the two sides was the middle order batting. They batted really well. They rotated the strike well and kept wickets in the hand and in the last few overs, they went for the big shots," Dhoni added.
One of the many criticisms levelled against India is their reluctance to change when a particular combination doesn't work out. But the skipper was defensive about this approach. "Regarding Ishwar Pandey, we thought that there is some more work needed on his bowling before he can be tried, but this exposure has been very good for him. We thought about playing an extra batsman but when the top six or seven batsmen are not playing well, then why should we rely on number eight.
It will also weaken the bowling," he reasoned. "And we wanted Ashwin's batting. The one match that was tied was because of his batting performance, so that is why we back Ashwin," said Dhoni, answering as to why Amit Mishra was not given a go. There were a few positives to take home though, as Dhoni later pointed out.
"Ravindra Jadeja's performance was really good. With the ball, he has been quite consistent but his batting was a cause for concern earlier. "Till we find a seaming all-rounder it is very difficult to play with five bowlers and six batsmen. So we always wanted him to bat well and we know that he has got the potential but in this series he batted quite well."
Dhoni said even the fielding was not too bad given the poor reputation that his team has. "...the fielding has been exceptional. Maybe a couple of fast bowlers dropped a few catches but overall the fielders have been exceptional. We got quite a few run outs that could have changed the course of the game, if you are playing good cricket," he said.
"Our batting may not have clicked, but we still got in excess of 250 in all but one game. So it is important to learn out of these positives and get rid of the negative feelings and thoughts," the Indian captain signed off.