Mohali: A jubilant Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni hailed the role of his spinners in the 29-run victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in the World Cup semi-clash and admitted that he had "misread" the pitch by leaving out R Ashwin.
Dhoni said the track was not a typical Mohali wicket which generally assist the quickies and he had opted to include pacer Ashish Nehra to give the team more bowling options.
"We misread the wicket. It was not a normal Mohali track. It usually does not help the spinner, but it did today. Our spinners really bowled very well and that really put pressure on them," Dhoni said at the post-match press conference.
"Pakistan players play spin very well, that is why thought to go with a 3-2 combination. We felt it was a safer option, since we have part-timers such as Sachin (Tendulkar), virat (Kohli) and Raina." On the clash against co-hosts Sri Lanka in the final, Dhoni said it will be a keen contest as they have a good and balanced side.
"The Sri Lankans have a good side and they have done really well in the tournament. We have to play good cricket to beat them. We have to be at our best," he said. On how he planned to motivate his team for the summit showdown, Dhoni said "You do not need to motivate, it is not required when you are representing your country. We are playing the World Cup and we all want to win it."
Dhoni said that the spirit and unity displayed by his team has been one of the highlights of the tournament. "The team unity has been one of the highlights. We are backing each other and that really counts," he said. On Nehra`s wonderful performance in the match, Dhoni said he selects the playing XI considering the pitch conditions and it was great to see Nehra justify his selection. "He was criticised for his performance the last time he played, so it was a good comeback. Being criticised is part and parcel of a cricketer`s life," he said.
Harbhajan Singh has not been at his peak form right through the tourament but Dhoni defended the off spinner saying every cricketer goes through a lean patch. Asked whether the team management would consider re-drawing their strategy considering Harbhajan`s poor form, the Indian captain said "We have done well with bits and pieces contributions from everyone. We will manage in the final also."
Rival captain Shahid Afridi said India played better cricket and deserved to win the match. "They deserved to win. We made too many fielding mistakes and our shot selection was poor. They also bowled very well and that put a lot of pressure on us. With the run-rate climbing, it got increasingly difficult for us," he said.
Afridi said he was happy with the overall performance of his team in the mega-event and many of the young players have shown that they have the ability to excel. "I am proud of my team. No body expected much from us and to reach the semi-finals is a creditable achievement. There are a lot of youngsters who have shown promise and I think we will do well in future," Afridi pointed out.
Asked whether he was apprehensive of his team getting a hostile reception when they went back home, Afridi said, "We reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, no one expected that. I think we have done well."
On Shoiab Akhtar not been given a farewell match, Afridi said "We tried to make him play this match, but he was slightly struggling. My intention was to give him a chance. But you cant have players who are 50/60 per cent fit, you cant take that chance," he said.