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March 19, 2015

MS Dhoni


Q. At 115 for 3 after 28 overs, was there any concern in the dressing room that you might not get to the kind of total that you were looking at?
MS DHONI: At that point of time, I personally thought let's look for 260 runs, and depending on how we go, maybe next five overs, six overs, seven overs I will keep revising the target, and as we got closer to the 260 mark, we still had overs in hand. I said, okay, from 260 let's raise to 270, to 275, then we had another good over, we said, okay, add another 10 runs to it. We kept doing that and ended up with 300 runs, which I felt was a good score. But at the same time it needed us to bowl good areas, to get wickets with the new ball and all of that stuff. I don't think it was like a par plus score. I think it was a close to par score, but certainly if the opposition had batted well they could have got those runs.

Q. Could you talk about Rohit Sharma's innings and Suresh Raina's innings?
MS DHONI: I think if you see what really happened is it was a bit difficult to score, the reason being if four of your top five batsmen, they are not striking very cleanly and if they are finding it difficult, definitely it means there's something on offer for the fastbowlers. I thought they started off really well. Once they started bowling that back-of-the-length channel, it was difficult for the batsmen to freely rotate. What could have been done was -- we kept losing wickets. I felt once Ajinkya and Rohit, their partnership was building, they could have gone on and played maybe a few more overs, the reason being if you have already played 35, 40 deliveries, the new batsman coming in, if you are finding it difficult he will certainly find it difficult, so he will have another 15, 20 deliveries minimum and that keeps piling up. Apart from that, I felt Rohit and Raina, they batted well. Rohit, the reason being the wickets kept falling on the other side, and still, he kept himself very calm. His strike rate dropped, but still, he knew if he's there and he plays maximum numbers of overs, he can definitely score and score at a good pace. Raina, we all know he's a natural stroke maker. More often than not what we have seen is he's been going and he strikes quite early, so it's always good to have somebody like him batting at No. 5, but overall I think how they took the game forward was very crucial because one more wicket at that point of time and you could have ended up maybe closer to 50 runs.

Q. Winning the toss turned out to be important, and also seven matches you bowled out the opposition.
MS DHONI: Well, I don't know whether winning the toss was important or not. It was one of those games where we would have been quite happy to chase, also. But there was a bit of forecast for rain, but we decided it's not high enough to say okay, let's chase. And also, big games you want to put runs on the board and always it puts pressure, because just the stakes are high. It was good, but I felt the wicket was also good in the second half. It was not like it misbehaved how it did when we played against South Africa. So it was a good wicket. There was a bit of pace. I felt the pace increased a bit, and that's one reason why I would say Ash bowled really well, because if you just see the stats, 10 overs, I don't know how many runs, no wickets. In India they don't rate people high if you don't take wickets. But if you see how he maintained and created that pressure, that was one of the reasons, the batsmen, they had to go after the other fastbowlers, and because of this we got wickets. Overall very good by the bowling department, and the good thing, as you said, in a row, like we have got quite a few teams out. It has never really happened with the Indian cricket team, so it's definitely a big positive.

Q. After seven convincing wins, how much confidence as a captain do you have that we can do it once again?
MS DHONI: I think what's important for us is we have scored runs in all the games, whether we have batted first or chased, and still, we don't have our batsmen in the top five run scorers list for the World Cup, which means everybody has chipped in, everybody has contributed, which is a good position to be in, especially in the knockout stages. We'll have to keep repeating what we have been doing; as simple as that. You win a game, whatever you have done right, you have to keep repeating. Maybe the individuals who get the number of wickets, they will change. The batsmen who scores runs, the names will change, but still, we are scoring runs and we are taking wickets. That will be good for us.

Q. Could you talk us through the powerplay phase? There was no mindless slogging but you still collected 50 runs. Did that play a crucial role in salvaging the innings back?
MS DHONI: I think powerplay is something we have done well on and off. I don't think we have consistently done well in the powerplays. What actually went wrong quite a few times was the fact that we actually lost a wicket just before the start of powerplay, and then, you know, you go into the first order, and the second order you lose one wicket, and from that point you can't really cash in during the powerplay, and I felt what we are doing well over here is we are playing proper strokes. By the same time, what's important is not to consider powerplay as a lottery system were you're like, okay, five overs, we want to get 55, 60 runs. I think five overs if you look for 35 to 40 and if you bat well, you will end up getting 45 runs. Not only that, it actually gives you a bit of momentum going into the slog overs, and with two set batsmen and the bowler slightly on the back foot, you can accumulate more runs. I feel in the last few games that's what we have done, not aimed too high, but at the same time played quite a few proper cricketing shots, and that has really helped.

Q. Are you happy with the circumspect approach of the top order batsmen in the early overs, or do you think at least one of them has to play by blazing away so that there's not much pressure on the batsmen to follow, or do you wish to keep wickets in hand all the time?
MS DHONI: If you see (indiscernible) especially, there are not many people around who can do what he does, and also you have to bat according to the strengths that you have, and I feel both Shikhar and Rohit, they have been doing that well. Also the fact you can't just go and slog. So whatever your strength is, back your strength, have a good approach about what's really happening, what kind of an assistance the bowlers are getting off the wicket, and then you keep revising as to where you need to be at the end of the 10th over. Quite a few times we have seen there are a few teams that have scored over 60 runs, but more often than not I feel most of the teams are closer to the 40-run mark or 45-run mark on an average. I think a good start is important, and it may not always mean the number of runs. It can mean a good partnership and batsmen being set there.

Q. MS, your thoughts on Shikhar Dhawan's catch? Usually fielders make it look very easy, but from a player's point of view, can you tell us how difficult it is and about the evolving fielding in that respect, catching on the boundary?
MS DHONI: I think it's something that T20 has brought into the game, and it's not only in the ODIs and T20, now even in test matches we see that with the fielders close to the boundary. It's just that awareness is there amongst the players as to where they are and what needs to be done, and with them being more fit, they can actually exploit it. But overall it's something -- it's like reverse sweep. People used to sweep initially, and then more often than not it was considered quite a bad shot, and now people play the reverse sweep even to the fastbowlers. The game keeps changing, and according to the demands of the game, the individuals, they keep improving their game, and this is just another, you can say, area where the fielders, they have improved themselves. Like you have two fielders going to the boundary, one flicking it back, the other throwing, so all these things keep happening, and you don't know what you may see in the next five years' time.

Q. Do you notice any change in the Rohit of four years ago and the Rohit of now?
MS DHONI: Well, I think if I compare -- if I have to go back four years, it won't be a realistic comparison, the reason being he was not really opening for us at that point of time, and we felt he was a bit of waste of talent if he was batting at 6 for us because more often than not he was not getting enough chance to bat, and our top order was quite fixed. We couldn't really make him play or give him enough opportunities. That's one of the reasons why if you see the first 40 games, you may think he has not done enough. But out of those 40 there were quite a few times when he went in to bat in the last four overs or five overs, and it's difficult, in a five-match series if you're playing and your top order is batting really well in India, at times you don't really get a chance to bat and you may get a chance in the last maybe couple of matches with 10 overs to go, and it all counts as chances. That was the time we decided we'll try to make him an opener, and he accepted that. He did open for us in the T20 World Cup, and from that point, we thought it will be good to have him as an opener because cuts and pulls well, and he's a natural stroke player, again, which to some extent helps if you have somebody in the top order, once he gets going if you can play innings.

Q. Who do you expect to win tomorrow, and if it is Australia, have you ever felt better prepared?
MS DHONI: It doesn't matter because it when it comes to the World Cup you have to play against each and every team and you have to win against each and every team, so it doesn't really matter who wins.

Q. If it is Australia have you ever felt better prepared?
MS DHONI: Are you putting money on bet.com or something? (Laughter.)

Q. From the start of the tournament you've talked about momentum and how important it is, but given your experience in the knockout phase, especially in the big events, what is the subtle difference in approach or what do you think the team has to do to be successful in the knockout phases in all matches?
MS DHONI: I think one of the most difficult things to do is to keep it simple. You start assessing everything because being human beings, that's what we do better than some of the other animals. We are good thinkers and overthinking can actually kill you, especially in an environment like this where there's already so much pressure, especially if you are part of the Indian cricket team. It's not only about doing well on the field. When you go out, you have to have proper dinner, otherwise the camera gets you there, also. It's a mix of everything, but keeping it simple helps. Playing good cricket and what it does, it just keeps your confidence going forward, just increases your confidence initially every game, and you just feel a bit more relaxed when you're executing your plans. It's a mix of everything, and I feel so far we have done well to keep it simple.

Q. Could you tell us a little bit about the pitch because it seemed like the ball was not coming onto the bat, and it was not easy to hit unless you spend some time in the middle. How would you assess the pitch as a batting pitch?
MS DHONI: I thought in the second half -- first half there was a bit of variable pace and there was a bit of bounce, but in the second half I felt it quickened up a bit, and when the spinners, they are bowling slowly, like when Ash bowled he got a bit of turn, even Jadeja got a bit of turn, but overall I felt that the pace increased in the second half, and it was coming nicely onto the bat. I don't think there was much swing for the fastbowlers in both the innings, but when you bowl first you may get a bit of reverse swing, which they got, and we were not able to get that, the reason being under the lights. I don't know what really happens, but it slightly comes on better and the ball doesn't get scuffed up so easily. That was the only difference. I felt it was a decent wicket. It was not like a proper batting wicket or bowler's paradise. It was just a mix where you could still hit the right areas and as a batsman you could score.

Q. What do you attribute the improvement in your pace attack to, and as a captain how enjoyable is it to have that armory that maybe Indian cricket hasn't always had in the past?
MS DHONI: Well, I think it's one thing that we'll have to do in the Test format even more than the ODIs. But it's the general psyche of the Indian fastbowlers, even when they play in the subcontinent they want to use the new ball well because even in test matches they don't bowl a lot. The spinners do a lot of bowling. When they get a chance to bowl, they want to bowl everything in that spell of theirs, inswing, outswing, yorkers, everything, but now with a few awaiters, I feel what they have learned is the importance of just keep hitting the one, that one area where you want to bowl, and keep hitting it and building up pressure and building in partnership, and that actually creates that pressure where the batsman gets out. I feel bowlers have really tasted it, and now they actually believe in that. Seeing it is one thing, believing it is something that's more important because once you believe in something like that you keep working on it, the subconscious keeps working, and the good thing is it becomes part of the system, so I'm hoping that they learn out of this, and when they come back again, irrespective of where we play, a Test series outside the subcontinent, it will really help them. They are bowling at good pace, all of them are fit, and if they can keep hitting that one area, I think it will be good because that's something where we have been lacking. We have found it slightly difficult after the 40th over to get wickets when it comes to test matches. I feel this is something that will help.

Q. You have done very well up until now, but how difficult do you think that this winning form will be maintained in a number of matches? Is it any special instruction for your team? How difficult is it to maintain in the next two matches?
MS DHONI: First, thanks for the compliment, but this "but" always comes in. I don't know why. You can always compliment and ask the question later. It's always tough. Nothing is easy. It's just that when you've won the game, you tend to brush everything under the carpet, but what's important is to still keep improving in those areas, so whatever we have not done right in this game, we would like to do it properly in the next one. That's what it's all about. It's nothing like a magic wand where you just wave it and it comes in your favour. I feel we have done well. We have batted well. We have got partnerships going. We have bowled in partnership. People have contributed. We have taken good catches, run out. All of it's looking very good, it's just that we'll have to keep repeating more often than not.

Q. Was that the best catch you have taken in your career? Can you recall as good a catch? And was today the best fielding in the World Cup so far?
MS DHONI: We had a very good fielding side. We had a game where we dropped quite a few catches, but apart from that, the fielding has been good, the reason being we have got good fielders, and we have got fielders who are like average fielders, so we don't really have anyone we have to hide in the side, which means on average we are a very good fielding side. There are other sides also which are very good in fielding, but still you can target a few of their fielders when it comes to these big boundaries. But overall our fielders, they look good. Even the fastbowlers are good. And about the catch, fluke happens, so let's enjoy it, and hopefully it will happen more often.
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