Dhoni not out for revenge
Mahendra Singh Dhoni insists there will be no appetite for revenge when his India team take on England in home conditions next month.
India, beset by a devastating string of injuries to several first-choice and high-profile players this summer, yesterday concluded a conspicuously unsuccessful tour by losing to their hosts for the eighth time in nine completed matches across three formats.
The rain-hit one-day series featured several tight tussles - India even managed a tie at Lord’s last weekend - but still England kept coming out on top.
Dhoni’s team have obvious prospects of faring much better on home soil in five forthcoming ODIs and two Twenty20s against England - especially if Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and others recover full fitness by then.
Even so, wicketkeeper-batsman Dhoni - a surprise choice as NatWest man of the series despite his team’s continued losing streak - believes thoughts of avenging this summer’s miserable experiences will be counter-productive.
“You shouldn’t have a revenge-like feeling,” he said. “Once you have that on your mind, you get desperate to perform and you start putting pressure on the whole side.
“So rather than looking at the opposition in that way, what is important is to stick to the basics.”
Dhoni is also reticent to seek excuses for a tour in which India ceded their International Cricket Council Test number-one status to England, and were also overtaken by their hosts in the ODI table.
“I always believe it’s not about sulking about what you could have done - it’s actually about what went wrong,” he said.
“Every side, every individual makes a mistake. But as long as you are learning from your mistake that’s good enough.”
That said, Dhoni did not have to ponder too long before citing mitigation for India’s troubles.
“We lost all five (ODI) tosses and had to bowl every time in the same wet conditions, where it was tough for our spinners to put pressure on the batsmen,” he said.
“There have been so many injuries - I haven’t seen so many in the last five years, especially in a series.
“You can expect someone to miss games or get injured, but in a span of one series losing nine players is something I can’t really forget. That has been a crucial part of our campaign.”
He nonetheless saw positive signs for the future in the performances of those who had to step in for injured superstars.
“When we were a bowler short (in the Tests), the way the other guys took on the responsibility was really encouraging,” he continued.
“In the one-day series, we didn’t have much luck on our side. But the way youngsters stood up and performed was good to see. Whoever got a chance did a good job.”
In the absence of Zaheer, Praveen Kumar carried much of the bowling workload - making up for his lack of pace with much skill.
“What’s important is what we have got and not what we want,” added Dhoni.
“Of course, I would love to have somebody who can bowl at 145-plus kmph and swing it both ways.”
As for the seeds of India’s difficulties, it seemed at times - under new coach Duncan Fletcher, formerly an Ashes-winner with England - their tour was simply cursed.
“Whenever we went to practice, more often than not it was raining and we had to practice indoors,” added Dhoni.
“The quality of the (net) bowlers was not great ... quite a few things went wrong.”
England captain Alastair Cook is well aware next month’s return series will provide a stern examination of his side’s credentials as a coming force in the ODI format.
“The hunger and determination to improve from the lads is very encouraging,” said Cook. “We are going to need that over the next couple of months in sub-continent conditions, where we haven’t played a huge amount of successful one-day cricket.
“Our learning curve is going to be steep, but I’m very confident in the players we’ve got.”
England face West Indies in two Twenty20s next week but have otherwise completed a highly successful season.
“It’s been an incredible summer for us, and in the last two months we’ve played some outstanding cricket,” Cook continued.
“In these last few games we’ve managed to sneak home, which shows very good character in the side - and that bodes well for the future.
“When we went to India last time (in 2008) we didn’t win a game, so that shows the challenge we have ahead of us in these next two months. But with the developing squad we’ve got, these are exciting times - and I think we can adapt well to those conditions.”
Cook has silenced those who doubted whether he could adequately adapt his Test match batting to 50-over cricket.
“I hope I’ve answered a few of them,” he said. “But it’s not about proving people wrong; it’s about proving to myself that I can do it.
“The last couple of games I don’t think I’ve played as well as I could have. I think I’ve struggled a little bit with my timing.
“It always takes time for a new captain to come in and players to get used to your style. But we’ll call it a good start, and move on from there.”