M.S. Dhoni refused to pin the blame on his top-order batsmen after Pakistan accomplished a six-wicket victory over India in the first of three ODIs, here on Sunday.
“It was a bad toss to lose. There was plenty for the bowlers initially and the Pakistanis bowled really well. It’s easy to get tempted and bowl short on this wicket but they pitched it up in the right areas. It was difficult to bat initially with the early morning moisture. The wicket got better as the match progressed.”
The Indian captain rated his man-of-the-match winning century as a good innings. “It’s not like I have plenty of hundreds to choose from [it was his first ODI ton since January 2010],” he said.
With this innings, did he feel like he was giving it back to his critics who had treated him like a punching bag? “It’s good if I am the punching bag. Sachin [Tendulkar] was one for a very long time. I’m happy to take some of the pressure off my teammates.”
On why the likes of Rohit Sharma or Virender Sehwag were preferred to Ajinkya, Dhoni came up with a typically vague response.
“That’s a difficult one considering Sehwag has been picked especially for the ODI series. Jinks (Rahane) will get his chances. We have had two batsmen opening consistently for us.”
When asked about Gautam Gambhir’s indifferent form, Dhoni merely shrugged it off with a smile. He also clarified that he wasn’t aware of the injury status of Virat Kohli, who slipped in his bowling run-up and was off the field.
Later, Misbah-ul-Haq said winning the first game of a series was a morale-booster. The Pakistan skipper, while lauding Nasir Jamshed for his unbeaten hundred, didn’t overlook other critical contributions.
“Junaid (Khan) is a genuine seam bowler and he satisfied our expectations. Younis Khan used his experience at a time when we were struggling to score. Credit should also go to Azhar Ali who played out the first 10 overs, which were crucial. Of course, Jamshed is a very good talent and has a long way to go.”
Misbah added that he wasn’t too perturbed by the man-of-the-match award going to Dhoni. “It’s the Jury’s decision. And Dhoni’s innings was fantastic,” he said gracefully.
Stressing on the need to keep working hard, Misbah admitted that Pakistan’s fielding and PowerPlay bowling needed improvement.
Both Dhoni and Misbah clearly stated that the new rules (which entailed having a maximum of four fielders, a reduction from the earlier five, outside the circle during non-PowerPlay overs) were hard on the bowlers. But they had a different take on who would likely suffer the most. Even as Dhoni said it was most difficult for the spinners, his opposite number felt the pacemen were the ones to suffer. Queried if international captains needed to be consulted before such changes were made, Misbah said: “I think they should.”