We did our best - Dhoni
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni refused to condemn his side after their reign as the world’s number one Test side came to an end with another heavy defeat at the hands of England.
The tourists, who were already certain to slip from the top of the International Cricket Council’s Test rankings after losing at Edgbaston, suffered an innings-and-eight run loss at the Kia Oval.
The result ensured England completed a 4-0 whitewash and left Dhoni facing numerous questions about his side’s dismal performances throughout the summer.
Yet although disappointed by India’s display, the wicketkeeper-batsman said: “I’m very satisfied with the amount of effort that was put in by the side.
“Winning and not winning are two different things, but even when you are not winning you are putting the same kind of effort in; that’s what is the most important thing.
“The batsmen were not scoring runs but still they were putting in the amount of time that is needed in the net sessions.
“At the same time, the bowlers, it was very tough on them. Once you get over 90, 100 overs it becomes very difficult to bowl the rest of the overs, but I’m very happy with the kind of effort they put in.”
India at least put up some resistance today, with Sachin Tendulkar and Amit Mishra extending their fourth-wicket stand to 144.
However, the latter’s departure sparked a sensational collapse as a rampant England claimed seven wickets for the addition of 21 runs.
“It was not really good,” Dhoni admitted. “We thought maybe there was a situation where we would be able to defend this game and push it for a draw, but we lost wickets in quick succession and after that we were not really able to build any sort of partnership.
“That was the main reason we were not able to defend this game.”
He continued: “We never put a par score on the board throughout the series.
“I don’t think there was a single innings where we put over 350 runs (indeed, India’s highest score was the 300 they managed yesterday) so after that it becomes quite difficult for the bowlers.”
Dhoni has not been helped by injuries to several key players, with Zaheer Khan pulling up lame in the first Test at Lord’s and both Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh flying home after the following week’s match at Trent Bridge.
Gautam Gambhir missed the second Test and was then forced to drop down the order this week after suffering concussion, while fellow opener Virender Sehwag appeared a shadow of his usual self after arriving midway through the tour following shoulder surgery and will now miss the forthcoming one-day series, along with Ishant Sharma.
While Dhoni conceded such setbacks made life tougher for India, he graciously added: “We shouldn’t take anything away from the English side.
“They bowled really well, they batted really well and their fielding was also very good so overall they played very good cricket over the last four Tests.”
Pressed on India’s decision to include the likes of Zaheer and Sehwag despite doubts over their fitness, the skipper responded: “When it comes to someone like a Zaheer Khan or Virender Sehwag, more often than not what you do is tend to wait for them so they are available for selection because we know what kind of difference they can make.”
Dhoni also rejected the notion that his team have been distracted by the hype surrounding Tendulkar’s quest for his 100th international hundred, which appeared likely to arrive today before the Little Master fell lbw to Tim Bresnan for 91.
“The only time we speak about it is when we are asked about it in a press conference,” he revealed.
“When we go back to the dressing room I don’t think anyone is thinking about it, because all of us know what kind of cricketer he is.
“On a good day, or even a half good day of Test cricket he can score that amount of runs, or a good innings in ODIs, so I don’t think we are worried too much about it.”
Tendulkar may have endured a largely frustrating tour, but the same cannot be said for Rahul Dravid, who was unsurprisingly named as India’s man of the series after compiling his third century in four Tests yesterday.
When asked to comment on the veteran batsman known as 'The Wall', Dhoni replied: “He has been brilliant throughout the series. He loves England, he loves scoring here.
“Don’t forget he had to bat at different slots; he opened for us and he batted at number three, so that also makes it a bit more special.
“When the team is not performing, the batsman who is performing feels more pressure because he knows he is the one person who has been performing throughout.
“I think he did a really good job. It’s always good to have him in the side when the ball starts moving.”