Nagpur: An infuriated Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Saturday blasted his batsmen for “playing to the gallery rather than for the country” after the home side’s three-wicket defeat at the hands of South Africa in a World Cup Group B encounter here.
India suffered a stunning batting collapse as they lost nine wickets for only 29 runs to crumble to 296 all out in 48.4 overs after being 267 for one in the 40th over.
“When you try to hit those big shots, you tend to forget that you are playing for the country and not for the crowd. In the process of trying to get those 20 extra runs, you end up scoring 40 runs less,” Dhoni told reporters at the post-match press conference.
“Some were playing to the gallery rather than for the country,” he said curtly, when asked about the assessment of on Saturday’s performance.
“There are times you need to curb your instincts of trying to hit every ball out of sight. If you play normally and play for 50 overs, you end up getting 325-330. I tried to shuffle the batting order. It didn’t work on Saturday,” he added.
Dhoni termed the loss of Sachin Tendulkar, who hit a blistering 111, and Gautam Gambhir’s (69) wickets during batting Powerplays as the turning point of the match.
He also defended Yusuf Pathan’s promotion up the order at number four though he scored a two-ball duck.
“Well, that’s how Yusuf plays. Either he would get out quickly or he will play a big innings. He is that sort of a player. If he can survive for two to three overs he can really play long,” Dhoni said.
About the frustration of watching from the other end as his teammates made quick exits during India’s batting, the skipper said, “I have come from a small state like Jharkhand where I have seen at times how one loses the initiative. This is something one has to live with.”
Asked about the decision to give Ashish Nehra the last over, Dhoni said, “Ashish has been our most consistent bowler at the death. He has bowled a bulk of his overs during Powerplays. But the ploy didn’t work on Saturday.”
Even though India were all-out for 296, Dhoni said he felt it was defendable total.
“I believe that this was a big ground which became a challenge for our fielders. They picked our fielders and ran their singles and twos well. Also they were brilliant on the field. It also made the difference,” said Dhoni.
“Overall I think the performance was good. If we could have fielded a bit better it definitely would have made the score look slightly bigger but at the same time we’re not a side which is known for fielding,” he added.
While the decision to play three pacers was purely based on Jamtha strip being one with good bounce and carry, the team for the West Indies match in Chennai on March 20 would be different, Dhoni said.
“Well, we thought that this track was conducive for pacers with good bounce and carry. When we select the team for Chennai, it will be a different selection altogether keeping the turning track in mind.”