Sydney, March 27: India's World Cup defence ended last night (March 26) with a 95-run semi-final loss to Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). After being undefeated in 7 straight games, India's run was halted.
Here is what the skipper said on Thursday (March 26)
Question: MS, are you as proud of what you've achieved with this team as what you did with the 2011 side which was much more experienced, and where do you see your One Day future from here?
MS Dhoni: I thought that question would be answered later, but it's the first one. Even before the start of the tournament, when we played the Tri-Series, we had a lot of problems to deal with, the cricketing problems, the form of the players. To manage, we were here for close to over two months, and then we had another two months. All in all, it was a tough one for us. (No ODI retirement for Dhoni)
The Test matches didn't go our way, the Tri-Series didn't go our way, so it was important to have a good dressing room atmosphere, and all the members, including the support staff, they were just brilliant because if you have a good dressing room atmosphere it's slightly easier to come back into form. (Photos of team's WC journey)
I felt everybody rose up to the occasion, how the fast bowlers bowled throughout this tournament, how the spinners have done, learning from all their past experiences when we fell outside. I thought it was the reason all of that together sums up the kind of performance that we have given in this tournament.
Disappointed we couldn't go into the finals, but only one team can win, and I felt they played better cricket on the day, and I think you asked me about my future. A very interesting answer. It's up to you guys.
The media should do a nice research on it, take a few days, and my advice will be whatever you decide, right the complete opposite, yeah, that will be the fact. It's up to you guys.
Q: What would you say about the way Virat Kohli played today? He looked under pressure, and was it the amount of pressure on him and expectation, or was he not fully fit? What was the reason you see him not playing so good?
Dhoni: You know, I feel he went out there and he played a shot and didn't pay off. It happens, and it happens to a lot of batsmen. Once the opposition puts over 300 runs on the board and once they have quality bowlers, at some point of time you have to take that risk, and if it pays off, if it clicks, all of a sudden everything changes.
He played a short, it didn't pay off, so that's it. I would say it happens in cricket. About fitness, a few of them had a few niggles, but the whole battle unit was 100 per cent fit. Fastbowlers had a bit of niggle, but nothing that really stops them from playing, so there were no fitness issues as such.
Q: Your legacy as an ODI player and skipper will probably be defined by what happened in 2011. Starting with 2007 to 2011 to how this tournament ended, how do you see your legacy as a player and skipper in the ODI game?
Dhoni: You know, frankly for me, it doesn't really matter. For me every time I turn up, for me what's important is to do something special so that I can be part of or I can contribute to the win. The top order has done really well, so at times I don't really get the opportunity.
What we have seen is I've been part of series where I've not actually got to bat. I feel that was a step that I took once I realised that it's more difficult for the newcomers to come and bat into the Indian team. If they start batting at 5 and 6, the problem was they are not getting the maturity that's really needed because more often than not in the subcontinent you don't have enough chance to bat the last 10 overs.
You need close to 70, 80 or 90 games to get the same kind of experience, but we started batting them up. Raina was the one we had to push him back because he's a special talent and he can do that walk-off batting at 5 and 6. I had to push myself back so that Virat, Rohit and Jinks (Ajinkya) could bat up the order because it doesn't really suit him if we bat up and Ajinkya has to do the job off Suresh, Raina, or my job batting at 6, it won't really pay off.
But overall the health of the batting lineup is good if Jinks is batting at 4, Raina at 5, me at 6. It was a conscious attempt to make sure that all these youngsters, they bat up the order. Apart from that, what people think about me as a player or what I have done, it doesn't really matter because I play for the enjoyment of the game, and I don't really have to do anything with the amount of runs I have scored. The day I pack my bags I pack it, and I'll be happy on my bike.
Q: Mitchell Johnson got a few big shots towards the end, but overall it was probably not a very good performance in the last 10, 15 overs. Did you think the total was chasable?
Dhoni: Yes, the reason being I knew the wicket will get slightly better in the second half. You know, when we lost the toss, I was a bit worried where I thought maybe the spinners wouldn't get as much purchase, but I felt Jadeja and Ashwin, both of them, they bowled well.
And in hindsight the good thing was we got a bit of reverse swing going, so I felt our fast bowlers could have slightly better because I knew in the second half there wouldn't be much of a reverse swing. That's the only reason I felt our fast bowlers could have done slightly better. But once we came back into the game and restricted them to 327, I felt it was a good score.
Yes, there was pressure, but at the same time it needed some good batting and good partnership, so it was a gettable score, but it needed some really hard work to get the runs on the board.
Q: An extension of the previous question, Mitchell Johnson got those 27 runs in those nine deliveries towards the end, and Australia went up to 328. Do you think it would have made a difference to your approach if it was say close to like 300, 310, your approach could have been different and the pressure would have been much lesser?
Dhoni: Not really, because you can't really say too much of ifs and buts in cricket because the way they were scoring it seemed as if they scored 350 runs. But we got them out for 320, 330. Yes, if Mitchell wouldn't have scored those runs, 300, but it still needs a bit of scoring, the reason being it's a big game, it's a semifinal, whatever is said and done, we are chasing 300 runs. You need to take everything as per the plan.
The only good thing is our batting lineup, they know how to chase 300. Our game plan didn't go really well in this game, but we are one team that has done it quite often, so I don't think that extra 20 runs would have made a lot of difference.
Q: You left it really late for the chase when you started to attack. What was the thinking behind that?
Dhoni: You know, it's a difficult one because as I said, our lower order, they have not really been able to contribute, so if you start too early and if you lose a wicket, it's nothing really left in the game. You get out for 150 maybe. So you have to take that risk at the right time. Maybe it was a bit too late, but if mine and Ajinkya's partnership wouldn't have come at that time, we would have packed up for 140 or 150 runs.
Q: You mentioned the support staff's role in the beginning. Just wanted to add a little bit to that. In the last four or five months, even they've been away from home the same time the players have been. Their contribution if you could just give one or two examples, how immense has that been?
Dhoni: I think we've worked more as a family, the reason being that's our culture, also, and I feel it often helps to have the kind of support staff that we have. The relationship is - it's not like we have a bowling coach, you have this, you have that, you have a fielding coach. It's more of a friendship that goes on.
Dr. Baba (media manager) is quite strict over here, but with us inside it's quite friendly. (Laughter.) I keep telling him, if the media is happy with you, then you are not a good media manager. But that's the kind of thing that really helps you. It's a very long tour, over four months at one place; another 20 days and we can apply for citizenship.
That's the amount we are talking. But it has been good. We learned a lot out of it, but at the same time hopefully, you know, what the fastbowlers have learned in this tour, they'll keep that in their mind because we won't be playing outside the subcontinent until next year maybe, so it's very important for them to keep in mind what really they have learned. Hopefully they'll have something, some storage space.
Q: One question about New Zealand and Australia. You haven't played New Zealand but you'll have seen the way they go about their work. What are your thoughts about their performances in the Cup, and in your mind is there a clear favourite in the final?
Dhoni: Well, when it comes to a clear favourite, you know, the thing is in the shorter format, it's all about that particular day, which team plays better cricket. One of the biggest things that the New Zealand team will have to deal with is the size of the field. In New Zealand you can get away with quite a few mis-timed shots.
Generally what we have seen in New Zealand, you get very good wickets. Hamilton is one wicket where it holds on a bit, but other than that, all the wickets have been just fantastic. But when you come to Australia, you get a bit of reverse swing, and at the same time you may get wickets where it's slightly two paced, especially if you talk about MCG.
How to take risk will be something that's very crucial, and in Australia they have that advantage of knowing the wickets well, and having three left fastbowlers in their armory because that will certainly help them. But overall we have seen New Zealand is one side that's a very contributive side. All the ICC tournaments, they do really well, so hopefully I'll reach back over there and enjoy the finals. May the best team win.
Q: You've played not just this World Cup but for a year or so before that under certain playing conditions in ODI cricket. Now that you're out of this World Cup, talk to us about what you think about the playing conditions for this World Cup and whether you'd like to see them change beyond?
Dhoni: It's my personal opinion I would like them to change. In the history of cricket we have not seen 200s; in three years' time you see three 200s being scored. A lot of people will say there are a lot of dot balls that are getting bowled because of that extra fielder inside. I would say have the option of having them outside, you can keep all 11 inside to stop all the dot deliveries. We have to see.
Let's not make 50-over game like a T20 game because I feel even a lot of sixes and a lot of fours also makes it very boring. The main essence of ODI cricket is how you bat from the 15th over onwards until maybe the 35th over. The first 10 and the last 10 doesn't matter, it's more like a T20, but the real essence of ODI cricket is how you bat in the middle overs. You have to make sure that it's still there present in the game, and I feel the rules are slightly harsh.
Maybe slightly more harsh on the spinners who like to deceive the batsmen with their flight, like to challenge them. Now you have these all batsmen playing sweeps, reverse sweeps and all these different shots, and they have an advantage. But you want power to dominate because that has been ODI cricket more than the soft touches and all. You have the option as a captain; if you like this rule, you can bring the fielder inside.
Q. You played very well during the World Cup, all the matches until the semi-final, but the people back in India are protesting and doing something like that, what would be the message for the people, and do you feel this is not good and this is bad?
Dhoni: We've got very good response. The people of India, they have come all the way, they are watching the games, so that's a big victory for us.
Q. Through the tournament your fast bowlers have used the bouncer very well. In this match it didn't seem to come off so well. Was it because of the pitch or the strategy or the Australians played it very well?
Dhoni: Still, I think we got quite a few wickets. I don't know how many, but I think minimum three we got, and if you are getting seven and eight wickets and three is out of bounds, we have to take it. I feel we could have altered the length, not the short delivery. I feel at times we were slightly more up than where we should have been because this wicket was not similar to some of the other wickets that we have played. As I said, we could have done something better, but it doesn't really matter now.
Q: Are you getting a little sick of the sight of Steve Smith scoring centuries, and what would be your advice to New Zealand in the final in that regard to getting him cheaply?
Dhoni: Different teams will have different strategies against him. I don't know what New Zealand's strategy will be because their set of bowlers is very different, so I think Brendon McCullum, he'll do good enough to have his own set of plans. I think Vettori's performance will be crucial because he's somebody in the middle overs who can really get wickets and is not someone that you can easily score off, play the big shots to.
So he will be the key factor. Other than that, it will depend on how their fastbowlers bowl because New Zealand's strength is their fastbowling, and at the same time they have got explosive batsmen. I feel it's quite a balanced game. The only thing is Australia, they know the condition better than the New Zealand team. But now most of the team, they throw so much that they know exactly what the conditions will be.
Q: How emotional is it to surrender the crown which you had?
Dhoni: Well, it's something that doesn't really belong to anyone. We definitely took it from someone, so somebody took it from us. It's as simple as that. You know, the best team takes it for four years' team, and then everybody gets their own plans ready, depending on the conditions, and they challenge the one that has the Cup.
That has been the case. It doesn't stay with one for long, but that's how it has been. If we would have played better cricket on this particular day, maybe we would have gone into the finals. But that's how it is. In any international sport you have to be at your best. If not, the Cup gets shared.