Melbourne: Delighted with Rohit Sharma's match-winning knock against Bangladesh in the cricket World Cup, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Thursday said the Mumbai batsman has now become an asset at the opener's slot after his "talent was being wasted" in the middle-order.
After Rohit smashed 137 off 126 balls in the quarterfinal at the MCG today, the skipper was asked about changes he found in 'Rohit of 2015' compared to 'Rohit of 2011'.
"If I have to go back four years, it won't be a realistic comparison, the reason being he was not really opening for us at that point of time. We felt that he was a bit of waste of talent if he was batting at 6 for us because more often than not he was not getting enough chance to bat, as our top-order was quite fixed. We couldn't really make him play or give him enough opportunities," Dhoni said at the post-match media conference.
He was in a mood to talk extensively on Rohit as he spent a lot of time doing a detailed analysis of the talented Mumbaikar.
"If you see in the first 40 games, you may think he has not done enough. But out of those 40, there were quite a few times when he went in to bat in the last four or five overs, and it's difficult.
"In India, at times you don't really get a chance to bat and you may get a chance in the last maybe couple of matches with 10 overs to go, and it all counts as chances. That was the time we decided we'll try to make him an opener, and he accepted that.
"He did open for us in the World T20 (Sri Lanka) and from that point, we thought it will be good to have him as an opener because he cuts and pulls well, and he's a natural stroke player, again, which to some extent helps if you have somebody in the top order, once he gets going if you can play innings," Dhoni added.
Rohit and Suresh Raina today added 122 runs for the fourth wicket and Dhoni was satisfied in the manner they turned the game on from a complex situation.
"Once they (Bangladesh bowlers) started bowling that back-of-the-length channel, it was difficult for the batsmen to freely rotate the strike. I felt Rohit and Raina, really batted well," Dhoni said.
"Rohit kept himself very calm. His strike rate dropped, but still, he knew if he's there and he plays maximum numbers of overs, he can definitely score and score at a good pace."
About Raina, the skipper reiterated what he has always felt about his trusted lieutenant.
"Raina, we all know he's a natural stroke maker. More often than not what we have seen is he's been going and he strikes quite early, so it's always good to have somebody like him batting at No. 5 but overall I think how they took the game forward was very crucial because one more wicket at that point of time and you could have ended up maybe in the range of 250," Dhoni opined.
Once India were reduced to 115 for three in 28 overs, Dhoni felt that the realistic target was somewhere in the range of 260 but the batsmen did well.
"At that point of time (115/3), I personally thought let's look for 260 runs, and depending on how we go, maybe next 5, 6 or 7 overs, I will keep revising the target, and as we got closer to the 260 mark, we still had overs in hand. I said, okay, from 260 let's raise it to 270 or 275.
"Then we had another good over and we said, okay, add another 10 runs to it. We kept doing that and ended up with 300 runs, which I felt was a good score but I didn't think it was like a par plus score. Had the opposition batted well they could have got those runs," Dhoni was clear in his assessment.
Having sailed into the semi-finals of the mega-event after a shoddy first part of the Australian Summer, Dhoni did look in a mood for a joke or two.
He did pull a fast one on an Aussie scribe, who asked Dhoni who does he expect to win tomorrow.
"It doesn't matter because when it comes to the World Cup you have to play against each and every team and you have to win against each and every team," the Indian skipper smiled and replied.
But the adamant journalist again asked the same question as to how would he feel prepared if Australia wins and this time Dhoni said: "Are you putting money on bet.Com or something like that!"
He took a brilliant diving one-handed catch to dismiss Bangladesh left-hander Soumya Sarkar and when asked if that was the best catch of his career, Dhoni's grin became wider, "About the catch, fluke happens, so let's enjoy it, and hopefully it will happen more often."
When another question was asked about what's the subtle difference in approach from league to knock-out stage, Dhoni's answer was a philosophical one with a dash of sarcasm about electronic media's prying eyes on the players even when they are off the field.
"I think the most difficult thing to do is to keep things simple. You start assessing everything because as human beings, that's what we tend to do better than some of the other animals. We are good thinkers but over-thinking can actually kill you, especially in an environment like this where there's already so much pressure," he said.
"Especially, if you are part of the Indian cricket team. It's not only about doing well on the field. When you go out, you have to have proper dinner, otherwise the camera even gets you there, also. It's a mix of everything, but keeping it simple helps," said Dhoni hinting towards some of the hindi channels which have been relentless following players from hotel to salon, i-store and Mexican restaurant.
When a scribe asked 'You have done well so far but how difficult it will be to carry on the momentum', the skipper said: "Firstly, thanks for the compliment, but this 'but' always comes in. I don't know why. You can always compliment and ask the question later.
"It's always tough. Nothing is easy. It's just that when you've won the game, you tend to brush everything under the carpet, but what's important is to still keep improving in those areas, so whatever we have not done right in this game, we would like to do it properly in the next one. That's what it's all about."
Dhoni said performance is all about proper execution and no magic.
"It's nothing like a magic wand where you just wave it and it comes in your favour. I feel we have done well. We have batted well. We have got partnerships going. We have bowled in partnership. People have contributed. We have taken good catches, run out. All of it's looking very good, it's just that we'll have to keep repeating more often than not."